Florida center Kevarrius Hayes threw down an emphatic putback slam after guard Egor Koulechov botched a layup attempt, sending the Gators’ bench to its feet and disappointed Aggies fans out of Reed Arena.
Hayes’ dunk gave UF a 22-point lead late in an 83-66 win over No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday night, but it was the three-point shot that propelled Florida to its first true road win of the season.
The Gators (10-4, 2-0 SEC) tied a season-high with 17 makes on 28 attempts from behind the arc. The team’s 60.7 three-point shooting percentage against the Aggies marked its second-highest percentage from the perimeter this season.
The Gators were led by Koulechov, who scored 19 points and made 5-of-6 three-point shots, and sophomore forward Keith Stone, who scored 18 points and and pulled down five rebounds, while senior guard Chris Chiozza nearly recorded a double-double with 12 points and nine assists.
Florida jumped ahead by 15 points with 8:36 left in the first half after baskets from Koulechov, Stone and Chiozza fueled a 22-6 run. Texas A&M (11-3, 0-2 SEC) was overwhelmed by the barrage of UF three-pointers, as the Gators hit more threes (10) than two-point shots (eight) in the first half.
“When you make a few early, it snowballs for you,” Florida coach Mike White said.
After heading into the locker room up 46-30 at halftime, the Gators wanted to avoid losing another early lead after watching their 20-point advantage against Vanderbilt on Saturday dwindle down to four.
But early into the second half, Texas A&M looked like it might stage a comeback. The Aggies cut the lead down to 10 with 13:42 remaining in the contest, prompting White to call a timeout.
Florida responded with back-to-back threes from Koulechov, sparking a 10-0 run that gave the Gators a commanding 20-point lead.
“It was the highest I’ve seen our confidence level, offensively, in a while,” White said. “It was nice to see that look in our guys eyes as shots were falling for them.”
While the Aggies were missing three of their top four scorers on Tuesday, Florida has nonetheless won four consecutive games and is starting to find its rhythm as conference play heats up. Since losing three straight contests from Nov. 26 to Dec. 6, Florida has gone 5-1 and has scored 80 points in consecutive games for the first time in over a month.
The Gators will stay on the road for their next game, a 1 p.m. clash with Missouri on Saturday. White is 2-0 against the Tigers as Florida’s head coach, including a 93-54 thrashing a season ago, but that doesn’t factor into his game plan at all.
“Every night is just going to be a war,” he said. “Every night.”
A video from FloridaGators.com contributed to this report.