It isn’t always pretty.
Former guard Chris Chiozza sank a buzzer-beating, three-point floater the last time the Gato…
The Gators’ 66-56 win over West Virginia on Tuesday night was anything but. The two teams combined for 36 turnovers and 52 fouls. The Madison Square Garden crowd was treated to brick after brick for most of the game.
UF (5-3) didn’t need a sublime performance as a team. It just needed KeVaughn Allen.
The senior was only averaging 8.7 points per contest heading into the game. But Allen had the hot hand against the Mountaineers, scoring 19 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The Gators had a bleak shooting night outside of Allen, only hitting 33 percent from the field. The team shot 46 total free throws, largely a result of the foul-happy WVU defense committing 30 team fouls. But UF only converted 28 of those tries.
Florida led by 12 late in the first period, but a scoring drought that lasted over 10 minutes let West Virginia (5-3) back into the game. The Mountaineers only trailed 30-27 at halftime, and UF’s scoreless streak lasted nearly five minutes into the second period. Four quick points from Allen put an end to the drought and energized the squad, leading to an 18-2 run to take back control.
WVU pushed UF in the final minutes, despite being held off the scoreboard for over five minutes. The Mountaineers brought the game within single digits with under a minute to play, but it was too little, too late.
Credit for the victory should mostly go to Florida’s defense. WVU turned it over 21 times with only nine total assists and shot 30 percent.
SEC Freshman of the Week Andrew Nembhard scored seven points with four rebounds and six assists. But he also turned it over twice after not having a turnover in his last two games.
Jalen Hudson’s struggles continued on Tuesday. He was heralded as a team leader during the offseason, but that has yet to materialize on the court this season. The senior considered leaving early for the NBA last offseason but now finds himself backing up a true freshman in Noah Locke. He only played six minutes against the Mountaineers, going 0-for-4, all from three. He also missed both of his free throw attempts.
Sophomore guard Deaundrae Ballard was a non-factor. The Gators’ leading scorer had three points, all of which came at the line.
It was an ugly game, but it also marked the best win of the season thus far. The non-conference slate hasn’t been ideal for Florida, but Tuesday night’s game was likely a must-win for UF. The Gators have dropped all of their key games up until this point, and a win over West Virginia ensures that Florida will remain at least a fringe tournament team moving forward. Now No. 10 Michigan State comes to town Saturday, and coach Mike White will have the chance to earn one of his biggest victories in Gainesville.
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno or contact him at [email protected].