In a game that can only be described as a complete barnburner the Gators caught fire from three in the second half erasing a double digit deficit after the first and coming away with an 81-72 win over Texas A&M. After an utterly disastrous first half the Gators trailed 46-33 but whatever Coach White said at halftime must have worked as the Gators came out looking like a new team in the second. Going 11-15 from three in the second half the Gators got right back into the game and never allowed the Aggies back into it once they got the lead. This game was played sloppily in a lot of ways but it provided a ton of excitement in the second half for the O’Dome faithful as the Gators magically drilled three after three and came away with all kinds of loose balls. The Gators now look towards TCU in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Florida was rolling the dice all night on both offense and defense. Defensively they were trapping often and gambling for steals which lead to a whole lot of frustrating open threes and layups for the Aggies, but also resulted in 15 forced turnovers. Offensively they were letting threes fly from every area of the floor and after a slow start in the first half an onslaught of makes in the second had the Gators finishing a remarkable 18-38 (47%) from the land beyond. KeVaughn Allen (8-10) and Noah Locke (7-14) were assassins from range and when they started hitting shots in the second half there wasn’t much the Aggies could do. With a depleted frontcourt this might be the way we see Florida play basketball moving forwards.
Florida had a unique record going up until tonight. They were the only team in the country to not have a player get 20 points in a game and they had that record for a few weeks now. That was shattered tonight with not one, but two 20-point scorers in KeVaughn Allen (31) and Noah Locke (27). When you’ve got two players combining for 58 points you’ll find a way to win on most nights and the Gators did just that tonight.
Could this game be the turning point that unlocks an explosive-scoring KeVaughn Allen? I’ll say this, I think he smiled more tonight than he has in his entire career, combined. After a few of his heat-check threes fell he had a giant grin, and after a late shot clock three luckily banked in he couldn’t contain himself from laughing. It was great to see that show of emotion and it might be something that helps the team lighten up after a season so far that hasn’t given the players much to smile about.
Isaiah Stokes Update
After not cracking the rotation the last four games Isaiah Stokes got back in the mix tonight for a brief 5 minutes. He made one tough layup going towards the hoop but his lack of dexterity on defense was quickly attacked by Texas A&M. Florida will need him to contribute some minutes with Keith Stone out for the season but at the same time he’ll need to play better than he did tonight to warrant time on the floor.
On a night where KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke went off this largely got lost in the shuffle but Andrew Nembhard had some incredible passes and finished with 11 assists, tying his career high. A lot of the reason Allen and Locke got so many open looks was because Nembhard was finding them when they got open and hitting them exactly in the shooting pocket. He did have 4 turnovers, a couple of which were pretty bad, but his ability to find those two wings for open threes was incredible. Nembhard is continuing to develop and is becoming a special player.
Texas A&M is not a good basketball team and if the Gators play like this against some of their future opponents they could get hammered but tonight they found a way to win after a disgraceful first half. But you know what, tonight was fun. Even though the game was sloppy at times and the Gators made some careless turnovers and missed some defensive assignments the team had smiles on their faces and seemed overjoyed with every made three and the ultimate win. This game film might make Coach White want to pull his hair out when he reviews it but at the same time I think he will really appreciate the enthusiasm his team played with, especially since it has been lacking for most of this season and, too be honest, last season as well.