GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — KeVaughn Allen was long overdue for a game like this.
It surely helped that he faced the team from his home state.
Allen ended a three-week shooting slump by scoring a season-high 28 points, reaching double figures for the first time in 2018, and Florida used a fast start to beat Arkansas 88-73 on Wednesday night.
“I’m so happy for him,” Gators coach Mike White said. “Man, he was great. He needed it, and we needed it.”
Coaches and teammates have been on Allen all season, pleading with him to keep shooting through his struggles. Students jumped on the bandwagon, too. They held up large pieces of paper that spelled out “shooters shoot” as a reminder for Allen to be aggressive.
“I saw that,” said Allen, a junior from Little Rock, Arkansas, and the team’s leading scorer last season. “It was funny to me.”
He also knew it was intended for him. And he responded, making 8 of 12 shots that included 6 of 7 from 3-point range. The junior had been quiet for weeks, scoring a combined 17 points over the last four games while missing 17 of 24 shots and 11 of 14 treys.
“He came out locked in to shoot the ball,” said Razorbacks guard Jaylen Barford, who scored a team-high 28 points. “He was just scoring left and right.”
Daniel Gafford chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds for Arkansas (12-6, 2-4 Southeastern Conference), which fell to 0-4 on the road this season and dropped its 13th straight in Gainesville. The Razorbacks have now lost eight in a row against Florida.
Jalen Hudson added 21 points for the Gators (13-5, 5-1 SEC), who won for the seventh time in their last eight games.
This one wasn’t even close.
Florida hit 11 of its first 15 shots, building a 15-point lead in the opening 12 minutes of the game, and pretty much coasted from there. Allen and Hudson sank back-to-back 3-pointers a few minutes later, pushing the lead to 41-23.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson kept searching for ways to slow Allen and the Gators down, but nothing worked.
“That was not good defense,” Anderson said. “KeVaughn shot lights out. Jalen Hudson shot lights out. And the rest was history.”
The Razorbacks cut it to single digits midway through the second half when C.J. Jones hit from behind the arc, but Allen quickly answered on other end.
“He got his groove back,” Hudson said. “After he hit a couple of tough ones, we knew it was going to be a good night for him.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks haven’t won at the O’Connell Center since 1995, a lengthy drought that dates to the playing days of Corliss Williamson. More pressing, they need to win away from Bud Walton Arena to notch quality wins that will be important to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Florida: The Gators played without center Gorjok Gak (concussion) and forward Chase Johnson (illness), further depleting their post presence. They have been without centers John Egbunu and Isaiah Stokes all season. Both are recovering from knee injuries and expected to return later this month. Florida also got guard Deaundrae Ballard (illness) back after a two-game absence.
Arkansas lost starting guard Anton Beard (ankle) and forward Trey Thompson (hamstring) in the first half. Neither played after the break.
“That had a big impact on the game,” Anderson said.
Florida point guard Chris Chiozza left midway through the first half after getting hit in the left eye with an elbow. He was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return. The senior finished with seven points and nine assists.
Arkansas: Returns home to face Mississippi on Saturday.
Florida: Plays at No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday night.
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