GAINESVILLE — KeVaughn Allen grabbed the rebound and sprinted up the court, stopping short of the three-point line.
Facing South Carolina — the team that held the Gators without a 3-pointer for the first time in 25 years earlier this season — the sophomore wanted to get that memory out of his mind early. He shot.
That 3-pointer set the tone for Florida's explosive offense, as the Gators beat South Carolina 81-66 Tuesday in front of 11,051 at the O'Connell Center, their ninth straight victory.
"It was huge," UF coach Mike White said of Allen's opening 3. "I know I felt better, so I'm sure my team did."
Allen led the No. 13 Gators (23-5, 13-2 SEC) with 26 points. In the earlier loss to South Carolina, when the Gators were 0-for-17 on 3s, Allen scored one point.
Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson scored 10, 12 and 14, respectively.
Allen also led UF with seven rebounds. "We've challenged KeVaughn since he's been here," White said. "He's never rebounded like he did tonight."
South Carolina (20-8, 10-5) coach Frank Martin said Allen's opening 3 wasn't the most important one of the game. That honor, he said, belonged to Chiozza.
After UF surrendered the lead with 1:06 to play in the first half, Chiozza hit a 3 to tie the score at 33.
"It kind of gave them life going into halftime," Martin said, "and they came out in the second half in attack mode."
Robinson led the defense. The junior forward had three of UF's four blocks.
Center Kevarrius Hayes was also instrumental. In Florida's second game since losing starting center John Egbunu to a torn ACL, Hayes stayed out of foul trouble until late in the game, playing 24 of the game's 40 minutes. That allowed Florida to avoid using its thin bench at center.
"I just felt like we were playing uphill the whole game," Martin said.
Florida guard Canyon Barry, a gametime decision because of a sore ankle, had limited minutes and was scoreless.
The Gators remained tied with Kentucky for first place in the SEC after the Wildcats' 72-62 win over Missouri on Tuesday night, with a showdown looming Saturday in Lexington. The Gators beat Kentucky by 22 on Feb. 4 in Gainesville.
"It's gonna be real different," Robinson said of playing Kentucky on the road. "Just stick to the course of what we're doing with defending and rebounding, and just hope to have the same outcome."
NO. 9 BAYLOR 60, OKLAHOMA 54: Johnathan Motley had 21 points and 16 rebounds and the host Bears (23-5, 10-5 Big 12) held on despite going without a field goal in the last six minutes.
USF WOMEN WIN: The visiting Bulls beat Houston 79-50, improving to 21-6, 10-4 American Athletic Conference. USF visits Tulsa at 3 Saturday, then closes the regular season by hosting unbeaten and No. 1-ranked UConn at 7 Monday.
USF ADDS SPEEDSTER: USF signed Auburndale High speedster Chauncy Smart, who becomes the 19th member of the Bulls' 2017 signing class. One of the nation's top prep sprinters, Smart (5 feet 8, 160 pounds) had signed a track scholarship with FSU, but was granted his release. He visited USF last weekend.
USF BEATS FSU WITH FOUR IN NINTH: USF scored four in the ninth inning to rally for a 4-2 win at FSU, its first win against the 'Noles (2-2) since 1989. FSU had won 15 straight in the series. The Bulls (3-1) capitalized on three walks, two hit batters, an RBI single by sophomore David Villar and a sacrifice fly in the ninth. USF's bullpen, which included three freshmen, allowed no hits over the last six innings.
Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.