GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The longer KeVaughn Allen’s scoring slump continues, the more curious and confounding it becomes.
Allen, Florida’s leading scorer last season and a preseason first-team All-SEC pick by the conference’s coaches, has scored 7 or fewer points in the last four games and five of the last six. He’s averaging just 6.7 points over that span.
All the while, Gators coach Mike White continues to try to find the right buttons to press, including having another conversation with the junior guard Monday.
“I continue to try to remind him of how good of a player he is and how aggressive this team needs him to be,” White said. “It’s a good thing to be unselfish, but sometimes it’s not only hurting himself but it’s hurting the team sometimes when he’s overly unselfish. He’s got to let it go and be KeVaughn.”
This is not a new topic, of course.
White has consistently challenged Allen throughout their two and a half seasons together to be more aggressive. Allen has the potential to take over games when his shot is on, as he most memorably did with a 35-point performance in a Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin last year.
He had eight 20-point games as a sophomore while averaging 14.0 points per game.
But after averaging 10.7 shots per game last season, Allen is down to 8.9 per game overall this season and just 6.5 over these last six games.
Florida vs. Arkansas
When | 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where | Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center
TV | The game will air on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins on the play-by-play call and Jon Sundvold as the analyst
Watch online | The game can be streamed via WatchESPN
There have been games where his shot is simply off, as it was Saturday at Ole Miss when he shot 2 of 9 overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. But the previous game against Mississippi State, Allen only attempted 3 shots despite hitting 1 of his 2 3s.
White has suggested that the emergence of newcomers Jalen Hudson (16.2 points per game) and Egor Koulechov (15.2) has caused Allen, with his instinctive unselfishness, to defer even more to his teammates.
But White knows how much more potent Florida could be with Allen operating as an equal partner on the offensive end. He just doesn’t know how to flip the switch with his humble, soft-spoken guard.
“When a guy’s struggling you try different buttons. The last button I tried was, over the last couple games, to leave him alone,” White said. “Because we tried certain conversations. We tried challenging him in certain ways, and it’s just a very laid-back conversation between two guys that have been through a lot together — positively and negatively — have a good relationship, open and honest. I thought he’d come to me with, maybe, an answer on his end or maybe a big concern and there’s nothing there. In fact, I think he wonders why people worry about him so much.
“So, hopefully — not hopefully — he will break out. He will have a big game here soon. I think we all know that. Hopefully it’s [Wednesday].”
The Gators (12-5, 4-1 SEC) host Arkansas (12-5, 2-3) on Wednesday night inside Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center.
They’ll look to bounce back from their first SEC loss, and they’ll hope Allen, who is from Little Rock, Ark., can play a key role in the process.
White said while he didn’t receive much verbal feedback from his latest conversation with Allen, per usual, he has noticed the guard putting in an extra half hour of work outside of practice while “getting back to basics.”
“And it’s funny, he’s shooting it well in practice, but you never know,” White said.
Meanwhile, he’s not the only one urging Allen, who is averaging 10.3 PPG overall, to be aggressive in getting his shots.
“I just tell him to shoot the ball every time I come out of a timeout. I always walk next to him, I tell him just shoot the ball if you’re open. If you’re not open, shoot it, we don’t care,” point guard Chris Chiozza said. “I tell him and Egor … I never have to tell J-Hud, but I have to tell everybody else. But they always tell me they’re going to shoot. I just hope he starts doing it more often.”