After a red-hot start, the Florida Gator eventually cooled off against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday night.
But then they heated up again, and continued a blowtorching. And behind a breakout performance from Natural State native KeVaughn Allen, the Gators had more than enough hot shooting to get an 88-73 win over the Hogs — and take back a share of the SEC lead.
Allen poured in a season-high 28 points — 20 of them in the first half —in his first double-digit scoring output in five games, and drilled six of seven threes on the evening. It was a scintillating showing, by far his best of the year, and one that will be taken as a good omen from hopeful fans who have been waiting to see Allen’s best coupled with this Florida team’s best.
On this night, they saw glimpses of it.
Jalen Hudson (21 points, nine rebounds) and Egor Koulechov (12 points on an off night) joined Allen in double figures, helping to compensate for Chris Chiozza, elbowed under the eye in the first half, having a relatively quiet evening as a scorer, notching just seven points and doing most of his damage with nine assists. Allen, Chiozza, Hudson, and Koulechov combined to hit 13 of 22 threes, and only Koulechov — 2-for-5 — made fewer than half of his attempts from distance on the night.
Florida also played fine defense for long stretches, and was punctured mostly by Arkansas shooter Jaylen Barford (28 points, 5-for-6 from three) doing his best to keep the Hogs in the game and some relentless effort from Daniel Gafford (14 points) underneath.
The combination of that offense and enough defense helped Florida maintain a double-digit advantage for nearly the entire second half.
And the Gators’ win, coupled with Auburn’s road loss at Alabama on Wednesday, puts Florida at 5-1 in SEC play and atop the conference, a half-game to the good over the the 4-1 Tigers.
That’s what’s going to be on the line for the Gators on Saturday, as they travel to Rupp Arena for their biggest SEC game so far this season.