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Florida 77, Georgia 63: Threes, defense, and KeVaughn Allen key Gators in SEC opener

It's fun to make shots.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's struggled mightily from deep all year, and came into its Saturday night SEC opener with Georgia as the worst Power Five team in the country on three-pointers. With a performance more on line than off-target, the Gators got a 77-63 win over the Dawgs — and showed a glimpse of what could be.

Florida trailed for just 21 seconds in the game's first minute, and led by double digits for much of the game. They got a strong start to the first half, in which Devin Robinson scored all of his 13 points, and held on to their lead despite foul trouble that sent both John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith to the bench.

And while Georgia closed to single digits repeatedly, it was threes — ones that pushed Florida's lead early and preserved it late — that fueled the Gators' offense on this night, as they made a relatively excellent nine of 22 on the evening.

KeVaughn Allen led all Gators in scoring with 18 points, and his killer stepback three with 1:08 to play was the final dagger of the night.

Georgia also shot just 35.6 percent from the field, and made just two of 12 threes, struggling to get good shots against Florida's swarming defense. It was a fine performance all around by the Gators defense, especially a game after being lit up by Florida State freshman Dwayne Bacon. About the only real complaints to lodge relate to rather soft post defense against Yante Maten, who had 20 points on 12 shots, and a spate of foolish fouling near game's end that prolonged Georgia's chances of a miracle rally.

And Florida's vexing foul shooting wasn't even that bad, thanks largely to Allen: The Gators went 24-for-41 from the line, with Kasey Hill going an unreal 8-for-16, but Allen's 5-for-6 night kept him just over 85 percent from the stripe this season. While the Gators' inability to reliably convert freebies is an issue, Allen's emergence as a steady charity stripe performer gives them a go-to player late in games when opponents will want to intentionally foul.

If Florida makes threes and plays defense like it did on this night throughout its SEC schedule, more than a few of those situations might be forthcoming.