In Mike White’s first trip back to his alma mater his team gave him just what he needed, a road win.
The Florida Gators opened their season up with a nice 59-41 road victory over Navy in Annapolis but went 0-4 with losses at Michigan State, Miami, Tennessee and Texas A&M before their 80-71 win over Ole Miss. In fact, the win over Ole Miss ended a streak of seven consecutive SEC road losses dating back to a 52-50 win over Alabama last January 27.
“We needed to break through on the road against a high-major opponent,” White said after the game. “To win in the SEC on the road is very, very difficult.”
It’s a task that has proved difficult for this team all season but with six of the last 14 games coming on the road — including trips to Lexington, Nashville and Athens — it’s something Florida will need to fix moving forward. Saturday’s win over Ole Miss should give Florida the confidence to do just that.
Leading the way for Florida on Saturday was freshman guard KeVaughn Allen, who poured in a game-high 27 points. Allen came into the game shooting just 22.3 percent from behind the arc but drilled 6-of-7 from deep against Ole Miss. A quiet kid, Allen is proving to be the kind of scorer that the Florida Gators have lacked the past two seasons, but a selfless attitude could be holding Allen back.
“You just can’t second-guess yourself about the first shot (missing),” Allen said. “You just have to shoot it with confidence.”
Playing Robin to Allen’s Batman was senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Smith notched his fourth double double of the season with 17 points and 10 boards. It was Finney-Smith and the Gators’ defense that really made an impact in the first half. The Rebels shot just 38.5 percent from the floor (10-26) and trailed for all but 16 seconds in the half.
“We kind of disrupted their offense,” said Finney-Smith. “A lot of guys helping on Moody. Just playing great team defense. We came out, got stops and made shots today.”
The Gators will return home for two games against Mississippi State and Auburn before getting back on the road. When they do travel to take on Vanderbilt they’ll have the confidence they need to get back on the road and prove they belong near the top of the SEC.