KeVaughn Allen stepped up to the three-point line from the right side of the court with two Razorbacks players guarding him as 32 seconds remained in the first half. He pulled up for the shot, towering over defenders as the ball sailed into the basket.
That three-pointer capped off his 20-point show in the first half on Wednesday. The most points Allen had all season was 23 in a double-overtime win against Gonzaga, and that took an additional 10 minutes of game time. He finished the night with a season-high 28 points.
In the Gators’ 88-73 win against Arkansas at home, Allen did just that in what was his best shooting performance since dropping 35 in last season’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin.
“He was great,” UF coach Mike White said. “He needed it, and we needed.”
Florida definitely needed it. Allen, who has been playing a backseat role to guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov this season, has struggled to be the consistent scoring threat he was in 2016-17. And the Gators have been hurting as a result.
The team suffered non-conference losses to Florida State, Loyola-Chicago and Clemson, forcing it to reevaluate its offensive game plan. One of those changes called for Allen to step up.
“I have been listening and they have been telling me forever to shoot,” Allen said. “Even if I miss, to keep shooting.”
On Wednesday night, he kept shooting. And the shots kept falling.
Allen took 12 shots against the Razorbacks, missing just four of them. He also went nearly perfect from beyond the arc, making six shots on seven attempts.
But more importantly, his play allowed his teammates to contribute as well. Hudson dropped 21 points and Koulechov added 12 more.
“It was definitely harder for them to guard us,” Hudson said. “He was super aggressive. He was opening the floor up.”
That aggressiveness Hudson mentioned included six trips to the free throw line — he made them all — and four rebounds, along with two blocks.
Allen showed a side of himself against Arkansas that we haven’t seen much of this season. He has only had one other 20-point game and was hovering around 10 points per game before facing the Razorbacks.
But for White and the Gators, it’s what the team needs in order to remain successful this season and possibly make another deep postseason push come March.
“When he’s really aggressive, I think every (shot) is going in,” White said. “I like to see him like that. His teammates do as well.”
Jake Dreilinger is assistant sports editor of the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.