University of Florida

Canyon Barry scores 20 as No. 24 Gators defeat Ole Miss

Mississippi guard Cullen Neal (2) dribbles against the defense of Florida guard Canyon Barry (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.
Mississippi guard Cullen Neal (2) dribbles against the defense of Florida guard Canyon Barry (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. AP

Even with Canyon Barry in the midst of an eight-game cold streak, the UF guard’s teammates have told him to keep shooting. Eventually, they said, he would knock a few down and reverse his luck.

Tuesday’s conference home opener against Ole Miss looked to be a solid start.

Barry scored a season-high-tying 20 points off the bench, Florida’s defense forced 21 turnovers and the No. 24 Gators defeated the Rebels 70-63 Tuesday night in front of an announced O’Connell Center crowd of 10,423.

“I hadn’t been playing that well offensively, but my teammates have had a lot of confidence in me,” Barry said. “I’ve been getting a lot of shots up in the gym. They found me in good positions to score, and I was able to knock them down.”

The 6-6 graduate transfer and son of University of Miami and NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry made 8 of 14 shots from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. He came into the game with a 31.8 percent shooting clip (21 for 66) over the past eight games.

“If he doesn’t come off the bench and have the game that he has, we could be sitting here in the other column,” UF coach Mike White said. “That’s what he’s capable of in any game. … He didn’t play a perfect game, but he was good.”

After the Rebels cut Florida’s lead to 42-33 early in the second half, the Gators (11-3, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) went on an 11-0 run capped by a monstrous dunk from center John Egbunu to take a 53-33 lead and put the game out of reach.

Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen added 14 points, and Devin Robinson chipped in 11 to help White improve to 3-0 against his alma mater since becoming Florida’s coach last season.

Guard Deandre Burnett led Ole Miss (9-5, 0-2) with 18 points, and forward Sebastian Saiz recorded his fifth consecutive double-double (15 point, 13 rebounds). The Rebels cut Florida’s lead to as few as six points with 20 seconds left before the Gators iced it by making 3 of 6 free-throw attempts down the stretch.

“We have a lot of potential to be a great team, but we have to put all the pieces together,” Robinson said. “We can’t have games like this where we start off hot and then let the teams come back.”

Next up for Florida is a home game against Tennessee on Saturday, with UF looking to go 3-0 to start conference play for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Tipoff is set for 5:15 p.m.

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