Gators rally from 12-point deficit in second half to upend Missouri, win 4th straight
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) —Kevarrius Hayes had seen enough two weeks ago. Too many close losses. Too many silly mistakes. Too little effort too often.
So Hayes called a players-only meeting.
Florida hasn't been the same since.
KeVaughn Allen scored 17 points, Keyontae Johnson added 13 and the Gators overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half to upend Missouri 64-60 on Saturday.
Florida (16-11, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) won its fourth consecutive game — the team's longest streak of the season — and continued to strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume down the stretch.
Allen and fellow senior Jalen Hudson have been catalysts.
"It's the bottom of the ninth for those guys," coach Mike White said.
Coming off consecutive road wins at Alabama and No. 13 LSU, Florida looked nothing like the same team in the first half against Mizzou (12-14, 3-11). The Gators shot 30 percent in the opening 20 minutes, had just two assists and trailed by nine.
They found themselves in an even bigger hole when Jordan Geist hit a 3-pointer that made it 40-28 early in the second half.
But Florida started driving to the basket and getting to the free-throw line. The Gators made 25 of 30 from the stripe for the game, including 16 of 19 in the second half.
Allen hit 9 of 10, including two with 5.5 seconds remaining that essentially sealed the victory.
Hudson added 11 points off the bench for the Gators. It was fourth time in the last five games that Hudson reached double figures, a positive step forward after a rough start to his season.
"Just trying to give it everything I got. That's my motive now," Hudson said. "It's just coming to an end and I want to give everything I got. I don't want to have any regrets. That's just kind of how I've been playing — leave it all out there every game."
Geist scored 16 points to pace the Tigers (12-14, 3-11), who have now lost four SEC games after leading by 10 or more points. Javon Pickett added 15.
Mizzou missed several chances in the final minute-plus. Reed Nikko missed an and-one free throw that would have tied the game at 61 with 1:17 to play, Torrence Watson missed in the paint and Pickett missed a wide-open 3 with 8 seconds left in a two-point game.
"Everybody was telling me it was a good shot," Pickett said. "I've just got to knock it down. That's on me."
Xavier Pinson and Jeremiah Tilmon both fouled out down the stretch, leaving Mizzou with two bench players on the floor.
"It definitely takes away from what we're trying to do," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Missouri: The Tigers fell to 0-4 in Gainesville and have lost six of seven on the road in SEC play, not really that surprising considering they've played all season without highly talented forward Jontay Porter.
Florida: The Gators continues to build a case for making the NCAA Tournament, which looked like a pipe dream a month ago. Hudson has been a big reason for the late-season surge.
Florida recognized its 1993-94 team at halftime. Those Gators became the first in program history to reach the Final Four and gave the football-first school a taste of basketball success. Lon Kruger was the coach, and Craig Brown, Dan Cross, Andrew DeClercq and Dametri Hill were the stars.
Florida forward Isaiah Stokes played about three minutes in the second half without his right shoe. He even altered a shot during the stretch.
"Just keep playing and just try not to have anybody step on your foot," Stokes said.
Missouri: Will try to avoid its first four-game losing streak of the season Tuesday at Mississippi State.
Florida: Plays at Vanderbilt on Wednesday, another must-win game for the Gators and their NCAA Tournament hopes.