ORLANDO, Fla. — While the numbers were ugly for sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen on Thursday, Florida coach Mike White and Allen’s teammates actually saw a silver lining in that 1-for-11 shooting performance.
He didn’t lose confidence after a rough start and kept trying to find his shot despite the mounting misses.
And they hope he remains just as aggressive Saturday as the No. 4-seeded Gators take on No. 5 Virginia in their second-round NCAA Tournament game (8:40 p.m. ET, TNT).
“The fact that he was 1-for-11, I do like that he stayed aggressive. And he was fine last night. He’s hard to rattle. He’s one of those unflappable guys,” White said Friday. “He was eating his postgame meal last night with a big grin on his face. He was happy we won.”
Florida (25-8) had plenty of offense against East Tennessee State as forward Devin Robinson matched a career-high with 24 points, Chris Chiozza scored all 14 of his points after halftime and fellow point guard Kasey Hill added 14 as well.
But against Virginia (23-10), which ranks 1st nationally in scoring defense at 56.1 points per game allowed, White doesn’t know if the Gators can get by without their best offensive players producing.
Allen finished with 7 points Thursday while hitting 1-of-9 3-pointers and 4 free throws, and senior guard Canyon Barry was also quiet with 7 points on 1-of-4 shooting.
They rank as the team’s top two scorers for the season and will look to get back on track against the Cavaliers.
“Those guys had a tough game. The scouting report (was) probably, ‘Make sure these guys don’t touch the ball,’ and ETSU did a good job yesterday of keying in on KeVaughn,” Robinson said. “He didn’t have one of his best offensive games, but overall I feel like he played really well on the defensive end and having a lot of assists for us and doing other things.”
Allen is Florida’s best offensive player, the one most capable of taking over games for stretches and swinging momentum in an instant.
He’s averaging a modest 13.7 points per game this season, but that has included 7 20-point games and a season-high of 29 (against Vanderbilt in January). It also includes other games where he can disappear for long stretches on the offensive end.
White has been very candid in acknowledging how much he and the other players have at times had to urge Allen to be more assertive or aggressive than his unselfish inclinations might lead him to be.
For the Gators to be the best version of themselves, it’s no secret Allen needs to be a force, be it from the perimeter where he’s made 38.5 percent of his 3s (72 of 187) or getting to the basket as he’s plenty capable of doing.
As for those struggles against ETSU, Allen said Friday before practice that he had already moved on mentally.
“I’m not thinking about it. I’m just on to the next play, just worried about just trying to win games for my team,” he said. “… Every shot that I take I feel like it’s a good shot. I feel like I’m in good rhythm. I’m pretty confident that the next shot that I take will go in.”
Said White: “He’ll be fine. We’ll call his number early and often and we want him to let that thing fly. Again, your better scorers have got to step up against a defense like this. KeVaughn is going to have every opportunity, of course. We’re going to urge him to be aggressive. I’m sure he will be.”