Florida tops Ole Miss 80-71 in Mike White’s return to Oxford
Before tip-off, Florida’s head coach Mike White received a standing ovation for his contributions to the University of Mississippi and his success in the late 1990s and the program’s run when he was an assistant from 2004-11.
The ovation kept White smiling before he could take off his suit jacket and grab his clipboard.
Then the Gators gave their coach more things to smile about by simply out-playing and out-hustling Ole Miss from the tip, knocking down a high percentage of shots and taking what the Rebels were giving them from different spots on the floor.
Freshman KeVaughn Allen had the game-high 27 points to lead the Gators (11-6, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) to a convincing victory over White’s alma mater, 80-71. The loss drops Ole Miss to 2-1 inside The Pavilion.
“KeVaughn Allen is a really good player,” said Kennedy, who had a chance to watch Allen play for Penny Hardaway’s AAU team in Memphis. “We made an emphasis that he’s the one guy that you can’t let get going, because if he gets going then he’s capable of putting up huge numbers.
“I think we all witnessed that firsthand.”
In the early minutes, Florida ran off eight straight points, with Allen scoring three of those points. And Allen would continue to score from deep without any Rebel defender in his face. Allen knocked down a wide open 3-pointer late in the first half to put the Gators up 36-23, then nailed another one at the 1:04 mark to put Florida up 46-30.
Like Allen, Dorian Finney-Smith was also getting solid looks at the rim, converting on three of his first four shot attempts from the floor and keeping his focus on the glass.
Finney-Smith finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. He was 9 for 11 from the free throw line. Kasey Hill added 11; John Egbunu had 10.
Ole Miss’ leading scorer, Stefan Moody, picked up two quick fouls and had to sit, but Andy Kennedy didn’t allow him to sit long with such a huge deficit the Rebels were facing. Since the start of conference play, Moody has seen double teams and saw them again against the Gators, who made seven of their last eight shots to end the first half.
White’s group simply won every facet of the game from beginning to end.
“It was huge,” White said about his team’s hot start. “We knew Ole Miss would come out with a bunch of intensity. We knew about the environment in here.”
Florida ended the half on a 20-5 run and shot 55 percent (11 for 20) from the 3-point arc. Moody had 22 points on 6 of 15 shooting to lead Ole Miss (12-5, 2-3), which shot 25 percent (5 for 20) from deep. Sebastian Saiz had 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Rasheed Brooks added 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Allen, a North Little Rock, Arkansas native, came in Saturday’s game shooting 23.3 (14 for 60) percent from deep. Against the Rebels, he was 6 of 7.
“He hurt us,” Kennedy said.
Ole Miss: Moody has scored 20-plus points in 12-straight games, which is the best streak in school history since Gerald Glass recorded 13 straight in 1989.
Florida: The Gators came in ranked last in the SEC in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage. Against the Rebels, Florida shot 49 percent (24 of 49) from the floor, 55 percent (11 of 20) from three and 68 percent (21 of 31) from the free throw line.
Ole Miss: Rebels will host No. 19 South Carolina on Tuesday.
Florida: Gators will host Mississippi State on Tuesday.
(Feature image: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.