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Florida 81, Texas A&M 72: Gators swamp Aggies from three in scintillating second half

The Gators needed some players to throw on capes at halftime. They fit KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke nicely.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball, it is popularly said, is a game of runs.

Florida’s 81-72 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday night showed how true that can be when teams sprint for only 20 minutes at a time.

The Gators could scarcely have played more poorly in the first half — and Texas A&M could barely have been hotter. The Aggies stroked seven of 11 threes and shot 55 percent from the floor, with Wendell Mitchell hitting a 27-footer at the buzzer — his fifth three of the first period — to put A&M up 46-33 entering intermission, despite KeVaughn Allen scoring in double figures and putting himself in position to have Florida’s first 20-point night of the year.

But then came a second half in which the Gators could scarcely have played better.

Florida bolted from the locker room on a 21-7 run — punctuated by an Allen three that gave him 20 on the night — that would turn into an extended 32-13 run that gave the Gators the lead for good. And if Allen, who would ultimately score 31 points and sink eight of his 10 threes on a night when he pushed past 1,500 points in his Florida career, was Batman for the Gators in the second period, Noah Locke was no worse than Robin, pumping in seven threes of his own in a career-best 27-point performance.

The rest of the Gators combined for just 23 points on the evening, with Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes netting eight each. (Andrew Nembhard scored a mere three points on a single triple early on, but did have a career-high 11 assists and grabbed six rebounds.)

But the torrential rain from Florida’s two fine shooters — Allen and Locke made 15 of Florida’s season-high 18 threes, the most two Gators have ever combined for in a game — was enough to drown the Aggies, who were just 2-for-11 from three and shot 40 percent from the floor in the second half, and committed nine turnovers that helped Florida rack up 11 fast-break points.

Behind two guys who love to rise and fire, and in a game that it had to have and needed to fight to get, the Gators rose to the occasion.

It gets no easier from here on, but this night left the impression that some capes fit.