Fastbreak: Florida toughs out upset of No. 12 Auburn as Allen breaks his slump

By Adam Silverstein
February 24, 2018
Fastbreak: Florida toughs out upset of No. 12 Auburn as Allen breaks his slump

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Florida Gators basketball (18-11, 9-7 SEC) on Saturday night saved their 2017-18 season from plunging into the ocean with an impressive 72-66 upset of the No. 12 Auburn Tigers (24-5, 12-4 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. In doing so, UF extended an 11-game series winning streak over AU, winning its 21st in the last 22 such games. The Gators also snapped a three-game losing streak and won their first game at home since Feb. 7.

Let’s take a look at Saturday night’s win in Fastbreak:

It was over when … Graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov made a free throw with 15 seconds to play, putting Florida up four despite its abhorrent free throw shooting down the stretch. Taking away junior guard KeVaughn Allen‘s two free throws in the game’s final seconds, UF went 5-for-14 from the line, 2-for-4 while the game was hanging in the balance late.

Exceptional effort: The Gators led by a game-high 14 points early in the second half after Allen, who started 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-3 from downtown, caught absolute fire to break out of a massive slump where he did not hit a shot for nearly 61 minutes of clock. Allen nailed three straight triples to end the first half, including a 65-foot heaving buzzer-beater to end the period. After he drained another, it looked like UF might pull away … until it predictably saw its advantage evaporate. Allen was tremendous with six straight made field goals, and he finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting (6-for-10 from three) with four rebounds, two assists and just one turnover.

Another blown lead: Florida is just so predictable. After Allen inflated his team’s advantage to 14 points, Auburn immediately responded with a 13-3 run over four minutes and briefly took the lead late in the contest with over three minutes remaining. Missed free throws and a clearly awful officiating decision near the baseline made it look like the Gators were doomed, but they did just enough to hang on and pull out the win as the Tigers missed some contested threes late (and saw one blocked).

Odds and ends: UF had 17 assists on 26 made baskets with senior point guard Chris Chiozza contributing a career-high 12 dimes … freshman forward Dontay Bassett earned his first career start and posted a career-high 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting with six boards … redshirt junior G Jalen Hudson impressed with 19 points and made 4-of-6 treys … Florida was dominated on the glass (41-31) and down low with Auburn converting 16 second-chance points and 32 points in the paint … the Gators made just 7-of-16 free throws (.432), their worst performance at the line (when attempting 2+) since March 1, 2016 … Florida led for 36:30 of the game with six lead changes and seven ties … the Gators managed only two fastbreak points on the evening, though they had eight steals and just eight turnovers (14 points off)

What it means: Florida looks to have put itself right back in the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a big win over’s ninth-ranked team. With two winnable game remaining and the SEC Tournament ahead, the Gators likely need at least one more victory to ensure themselves a spot in the field. The team was clearly struggling for answers over the last few weeks but played with tremendous energy, so credit to head coach Mike White for getting them up for the challenge.

Up next: UF concludes the regular season next week with a road game at Alabama (which won by 18 in Gainesville back on Feb. 3) and at home against Kentucky (which the Gators beat by two in Rupp Arena on Jan. 20).

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