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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Florida solves shooting struggles in win over Ole Miss

<p>UF guard KeVaughn Allen drives down the court during Florida’s 68-62 win over LSU on Jan. 9, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.</p>

UF guard KeVaughn Allen drives down the court during Florida’s 68-62 win over LSU on Jan. 9, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.

There was no one within 10 feet of Kasey Hill.

The junior guard had made just four three-pointers all season, and there he was on Saturday, standing behind the three-point line with the ball in his hands.

Hill hesitated.

He took the shot. It went in.

The same shots that Florida had struggled to make for most of its season suddenly seemed to fall in its 80-71 road win over Ole Miss on Saturday night.

They came from KeVaughn Allen, UF’s freshman guard who scored 27 points on 11 shots, and missed just two.

They came from redshirt senior Dorian Finney-Smith, who collected his fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting, including a 2-of-3 performance from behind the arc.

And they came from the rest of Florida, who combined to shoot 49 percent from the field, its highest mark since Dec. 22 against Jacksonville, and 55 percent from three, its highest of the season.

“On nights that we make shots, we’re obviously significantly better,” UF coach Mike White said. “It’s been our biggest deficiency. For KeVaughn Allen to step up and go 6-of-7 from three, that’s as good as we’ve been offensively all year.”

Despite never trailing and holding a 10- to 15-point lead for a majority of the game, it never felt as if the Gators (11-6, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) were out of Ole Miss’ reach.

Perhaps it was due to the Rebels’ Stefan Moody, the 5-foot-10 guard and three-point specialist who led Ole Miss with 22 points. In one stretch during the second half, Moody made two straight threes to cut Florida’s deficit to 55-40, forcing the Gators to call a timeout.

But Florida answered every Ole Miss run.

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After Ole Miss (12-5, 2-3 SEC) scored seven straight points with nearly four minutes left in the first half, Florida closed out the half on a 16-7 run.

After the Rebels scored nine consecutive points with 7:34 left in the second half, UF responded with an 11-6 run, spearheaded by six made free-throws from Allen, Finney Smith and Hill.

On the offensive end, on the defensive end and from the foul line, it was arguably Florida’s most complete victory in conference play. Out of its five SEC games, the Gators recorded new highs in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage (67.7 percent) on Saturday night.

“It was a little bit more special to me,” said White, who returned to his alma mater at Ole Miss for the first time on Saturday as Florida's coach. “I’m really proud of our guys. They stepped up in a tough environment.”

Florida will try to win its second straight SEC game when it returns home to face Mississippi State on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“I thought we really set the tone,” White said. “It was as hard as we’ve came out, and as focused as we’ve come out, especially on the road.”

A radio broadcast contributed to this report.

Follow Ian Cohen on Twitter @icohenb

UF guard KeVaughn Allen drives down the court during Florida’s 68-62 win over LSU on Jan. 9, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.

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