KeVaughn Allen stole the ball nine minutes into the second half, calmly dribbled to the three-point line with no one around him and drained a shot to extend Florida’s lead by 14.
To someone who casually follows the UF men’s basketball team, that sequence seems like a normal play for the All-SEC junior guard. The man who led the Gators to an Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament last season while averaging 14 points per game just doing what he does best: scoring.
Florida center Kevarrius Hayes patrolled the paint midway through the second half, eyeing the ball as it moved around the perimeter. When Miss…
However, that jumper, the one he effortlessly drained from beyond the arc, was the first shot he attempted in the game in Florida’s 71-54 win over Mississippi State on Wednesday night at the O’Connell Center. Allen shot the ball a season-low three times against the Bulldogs, an odd statistic for those who watched him play last year.
The Gators’ most reliable scorer in 2016-17 not even attempting to score? It’s puzzling.
“KeVaughn really struggled,” UF coach Mike White said. “We want KeVaughn to be aggressive.”
For fans who are watching this season, however, Allen’s shooting woes aren’t anything new. In two separate occasions this year, Allen has scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. In a 108-87 win against Stanford on Nov. 23, he attempted just four shots, good for nine points.
The Gators aren’t hurting without Allen dropping 20 points a night. The additions of guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov have taken the pressure off Allen as a scorer. He no longer needs to be Florida’s main option to get a basket. The rise of senior guard Chris Chiozza as a shooter also plays a factor, as he’s helped spread the floor more.
But the Gators would be a much better team if Allen was playing as well as his aforementioned counterparts.
Maybe he’s just in a slump, where some of his early-season performances — he scored single-digit points in five of his first nine games — shook his confidence.
Either way, it was enough for White to acknowledge that the Gators need to find a way to get him going.
“I think he just starts wondering about if the next shot should go to someone else and he needs to get those thoughts out of his head,” White said on Monday. “If he’s open, he needs to shoot it with confidence.”
When Allen isn’t reserved about his shot selection, he has consistently been one of Florida’s top offensive threats. If he can find his rhythm, along with Koulechov, Hudson and Chiozza all maintaining their scoring grooves, the Gators’ chance at making another deep NCAA Tournament run grows exponentially.
“(Allen) has some big games ahead of him,” White said. “He just does.”