KeVaughn Allen

Florida guard KeVaughn Allen scored 18 points during Florida's 57-51 win over Arkansas. He went 11 of 12 from the free-throw line.

 

Mike White was fresh off a win against Arkansas on Wednesday when he joined SEC Network broadcasters Barry Booker and Taylor Zarzour at their table.

The Florida men’s basketball team survived a late push by Arkansas to claim its first conference win. So naturally, Zarzour asked White about his thoughts on the matter.

White’s first words were simple enough, yet tell the story of the past week for the Gators.

“Two games in a row where we’re playing with a lead late and didn’t handle it great,” he said.

UF really didn’t play well down the stretch in its past two contests.

It lost to South Carolina on Saturday after the Gamecocks erased a 14-point deficit in the second half, winning on a last second full-court inbound heave to Chris Silva for a dunk.

It looked to be the same on Wednesday.

Florida nearly blew a 16-point lead this time around. It was a two-point contest with just a minute left in the game.

But what helped the Gators stay in the lead and win against the Razorbacks was its free-throw shooting, something that was missing in the final minutes of the South Carolina game.

They got the ball to guard KeVaughn Allen, the best all-time free-throw shooter in program history (86.9 percent), who made enough to keep Florida ahead.

“I’m confident in my ability to take my time and knock them down,” Allen said of his free-throw shooting.

He made two with 12 seconds left to make it a four-point game. When Arkansas missed its next shot, Allen made two more, putting the contest out of reach.

“We made enough plays down the stretch but had the wrong mentality late in the game, both offensively and defensively,” White said.

It’s a different story than when the Gators played South Carolina. Florida went 4 of 8 from the charity stripe in the final 7:17 of the game. Center Kevarrius Hayes had a chance to take the lead with three seconds remaining but only made one of his throws and tied the game.

Those four added points could have potentially made the difference in the game during that span, but it allowed the Gamecocks to edge the Gators late.

Mistakes like that will only hurt the Gators when they face No. 3 Tennessee at the O’Connell Center on Saturday. If Florida does jump out to a big lead in that game, it will easily lose it if it continues to play the same way.

UF will need a near-flawless performance to win, and that includes getting those free points whenever the opportunity arises.

“When we got up 15, we were different,” White said. “Hopefully, we learn from that. We didn’t learn from it Saturday, obviously, but hopefully, with two in a row, we will.”

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].

Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor of the Alligator and covers the Florida Gators football team. He has previously covered men's basketball, baseball and softball. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.