Tuesday was the game Florida has been waiting for from KeVaughn Allen. The freshman showed up in Gainesville over the summer with plenty of natural scoring ability, but early in practices and even during games, Allen was hesitant to get his shot and take it.
Things started to change over the previous handful of games, and those hesitations weren’t there at all against Florida State. Allen scored 32 points while going 10-18 from the field, 3-7 from the three-point line and 9-9 from the free throw line. His 32 points were the fifth-most by a Florida freshman in program history and the most since Matt Walsh had 33 points against Miami on December 21, 2002.
“I was more confident out there than usually,” Allen said. “I was feeling the game. With each game that goes by, I’m more comfortable. I just stepped up and knocked down shots.”
It’s the ninth time a Division I freshman scored 30+ points in a game this season, and Allen’s 32 points tied for the third-most nationally. Allen opened Florida’s scoring with a reverse layup early in the game. He was able to get into the paint and attack the FSU defense, which opened up the perimeter jump shots.
“He’s just an outstanding player,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I watched him a lot in high school. It was just a matter of time before he was going to break out and have one of these games. You can sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. You’re going to see a lot more nights like this from him. He’s a great player, and he showed the nation tonight what he’s all about.”
Florida coach Mike White saw this breakout coming. Allen was starting to build momentum, coming into Tuesday’s game with back-to-back games in double figures, including a career-high 15 points against Jacksonville in the final game before the team broke for Christmas.
White has seen before that freshmen go home for Christmas, get a chance to regroup mentally and return rejuvenated after having a chance to get away.
“Hopefully it’s a springboard for him,” White said. “KeVaughn, over the last 10 days, has elevated his game. When freshmen get back from Christmas break and have been away from it for a bit to see their families, they’re rejuvenated. Not only tonight but the practices leading up to it. He has been unbelievable. Hopefully he continues to gain confidence in himself. He probably gained confidence from his teammates as well tonight.”
Allen’s teammates were the least surprise people in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday. They’ve watched these breakout performances happen multiple times throughout the team’s practices. When Allen gets hot, he’s capable of taking over and putting the team on his shoulders like he did on Tuesday.
“I’m just happy the ball is finally going in for him and in bunches,” Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “He can score in bunches. That’s just a glimpse of what he can do.”