GAINESVILLE With Florida trailing Vanderbilt by two points and about 10 seconds left in the game, KeVaughn Allen stole the ball from the Commodores’ Luke Kornet to give the Gators one last chance.
When Vanderbilt knocked the ball out of bounds, Kasey Hill inbounded the ball back to Allen, who launched the potential game-winning three-pointer with the Commodores’ Matthew Fisher-Davis in his face.
“I thought it had a chance,” the soft-spoken Allen said after the game.
Despite all the heroics Allen provided No. 19 Florida on Saturday afternoon, UF ended up one shot short in its 68-66 loss to Vanderbilt. It was Florida’s second loss in a row and first defeat this season in the newly renovated O’Connell Center.
Allen finished with a season-high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting and made five three-pointers. It was a needed performance for the sophomore, who came into the game with 16 total points over his previous three games and on a streak where he missed eight consecutive attempts from beyond the arc.
“KeVaughn was terrific,” Gators coach Mike White said. “He was really good. … If he doesn’t throw in four or five high-degree-of-difficulty shots, the game wouldn’t have been close.”
And until that final shot, Allen gave UF (14-5, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) the shots it needed when it needed them.
After the Gators missed all 17 of their three-point attempts three days earlier in a 57-53 road loss to No. 24 South Carolina, Allen broke that drought a little more than four minutes into the game.
After a more than three-minute stretch in the second half when neither team made a basket, Allen bolted to the rim and made a quick left-handed layup in traffic to give UF a five-point lead.
And after Vanderbilt went on a 12-0 run a few minutes later, Allen hit a three from the corner in front of his bench to tie the game at 56 with 5:31 to play.
“If he’s hitting, keep hitting them,” said UF junior forward Devin Robinson, who scored 12 points before fouling out with 1:30 left. “We’ll keep feeding him.”
But the Commodores (9-10, 3-4) closed the game on a 9-5 run to snap a four-game losing streak and give first-year coach Bryce Drew his biggest win of the season.
Fisher-Davis, the junior wing who defended Allen on his final shot, had 19 points to help Vanderbilt win back-to-back games in Gainesville for the first time since 1990 and ’91.
Now, the Gators take their two-game losing streak on the road this week with a Wednesday night matchup against LSU before traveling to Oklahoma next Saturday as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
“There’s a fork in the road here,” White said. “Do we panic? Do we point fingers? Do we blame each other? Or do we simply man up and put some of our deficiencies on ourselves and … find a way to get better? That obviously was not the focus [on Saturday].”