By CHRIS BURROWS
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Florida coach Michael White knew his return to Mississippi was going to be a story. But it was freshman point guard KeVaughn Allen that stole the show Saturday night.
Allen, in a dominating individual performance, scored 27 points as Florida defeated Ole Miss 80-71. In the process, the Gators (11-6, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) got their first league win in three tries, ended a seven-game home winning streak for the Rebels and made it a happy homecoming return for White.
"It’s great because it’s a road win in the SEC over a major opponent," said White, who spent 11 years at Ole Miss as a player and assistant coach. "But to play like this, in this environment and it’s an awesome environment, is a huge win for us."
Allen finished 9 of 11 from the field, 6 of 7 from 3-point range and added six rebounds. The balanced Florida attack featured Dorian Finney-Smith with 17 points, Kasey Hill with 11 while John Egbunu added 10.
"The one guy (Allen) you can’t leave open is the one guy that took control of the game," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "He’s really good. Florida had struggled on the road and needed confidence. We fueled that in the opening four minutes."
The Gators were never seriously threatened, racing to a 15-2 lead in the opening four minutes. Florida held a 49-30 halftime advantage, led by Allen’s 20 points and the Rebels never closed within double digits until the final minute.
Stefan Moody, limited by early foul trouble, led the Rebels (12-5, 2-3) with 22 points. Sebastian Saiz and Rasheed Brooks added 17 and 14 points, respectively. Ole Miss was 25 of 56 (45 percent) but struggled from 3-point range, hitting 5 of 20 (25 percent).
Florida dominated the boards, outrebounding the Rebels 39-29, including a game-high 10 from Finney-Smith. The Gators were 24 of 49 (49 percent) from the field, including 11 of 20 from 3-point range.
"The fast start was huge," White said. "Allen is a streaky shooter. We’ve seen him hit like that in practice, but when he shoots like that in a game and we play solid defensively like we did tonight, I’m encouraged about what we can do."
White acknowledged extended applause from the Ole Miss crowd with a wave during pregame introductions. White was a four-year starter at point guard for the Rebels, leading them to a pair of SEC Western Division titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances from 1996-99. He also served as an Ole Miss assistant coach for seven years, the final five under current head coach Andy Kennedy.
"Andy is a great coach and his staff and I put a lot of sweat equity iat Ole Miss," White said. "I love this place. Always have. Always will. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces, too, but it was really great because Florida won."
TIP – INS
Florida: Allen turned in a dominant first half performance with 20 points on 7 of 8 shooting, 5 of 6 from 3-point range, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and no turnovers as the Gators built an insurmountable lead. Chris Chiozza had eight assists in the first half. Egbunu had three dunks and layup in the opening 10 minutes.
Ole Miss: Moody, who leads the SEC at 24.4 ppg, has scored 20-plus points in 12 straight games, but struggled with six turnovers. …Brooks had eight rebounds, two assists and a steal to complement his 14-point performance.
Ole Miss hosts No. 19 South Carolina on Tuesday.
Florida hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday.
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