The Florida Gators basketball team (8-4) fell to their instate rival, the Florida State Seminoles (10-2) on Tuesday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
On a night when all of the attention was on the freshman guards for the Noles—Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley—the Gators own freshman guard, KeVaughn Allen looked to make his own name in this Sunshine State showdown.
Allen did his part, leading all scorers with 32 (just six shy of the Florida freshman record) and was largely the reason Florida remained in the game respectively for as long as they did. For all intents and purposes it was KeVaughn Allen’s game.
KeVaughn gave Florida their first four points on a layup and two free throws. It didn’t take long though for the Seminoles hotshot freshmen guards to take over with Bacon and Beasley combining for 34 points, nine rebounds and four assists in all.
Florida State’s fast transition offense, something head coach Mike White had detailed in preview, proved to be as good as advertised and the Gators defense, which has been their strong suit, couldn’t keep up; at times even looking completely flabbergasted.
The Seminoles ended the first half on a 10-0 run, even including a buzzer beating 3 from Devon Bookert (4-7, 3-6 from 3) to give FSU a 41-31 lead going to the locker room.
Allen came out of the break with a shot from downtown but then the route seemed to be back on with the Noles holding a 13 point lead at the first media timeout in the second half.
With 13:30 left to go in the game and FSU holding a nine point lead, Allen took over and this time it was more than just a single layup. The Florida Gators basketball team collectively went on a 13-5 run and Allen chipped in seven of those. Reverse layups, left handed layups, free throws and dunks. He did it all and more as he proceeded to rip the second half out of two other freshmen guards who thus far had taken all of the deserved recognition.
Allen’s success began to rub off on his teammates as Kasey Hill added 10 points of his own and continued to prove he is better served as an excellent bench option who is at his best when he only has to focus on when to turn on his burners.
Kevarrious Hayes, John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith—all huge contributors to a stiff Gators front court that has been formidable thus far this season—seemed to realize that their guard was the only one making plays and began to contribute on the defensive end in a big way, living on the glass. The Gators out-rebounded Florida State 43-36.
As the half began to wind down and the Noles sent the Gators to the free throw line, Florida surprised, hitting all six within the last six minutes and finishing at 66% overall.
Those numbers were much better than those filling the stat line for 3-point shooting, were the Gators finished 4-25. There was one 3 though that seemed to do it’s job as Dorian Finney-Smith hit his only long shot of the night with 2:33 left to make it a 5 point game.
It was a layup from Finney-Smith (with an assist from Allen, of course) with 23 seconds left that tied the game at 71 and had the O-Dome rocking.
In the end though, it was one half of the original hotshot freshmen guard duo that sealed the deal, as Bacon nailed a jumper with a little over four seconds left to give the Florida State Seminoles a 73-71 win over the Florida Gators basketball team.
The Florida Gators basketball team will now move through New Years and to a new portion of their schedule; they begin SEC play on January 2nd beginning with league foe Georgia.
Having spend the first 11 games relying on the big men down low, the Gators can now head into their conference schedule feeling assured that there’s a guard named KeVaughn Allen ready to do his part as well.