The Arkansas Razorbacks had not won in Gainesville, Fla., in 25 years, and despite a couple of significant runs that gave them a chance to finally break through on Tuesday the Florida Gators slammed the door with a 17-7 game-finishing run to win going away, 73-59.
Arkansas (16-10, 4-9 SEC) trailed by 19 points in the first half before a 15-3 Hogs’ run allowed them to pull within 7 at the break, 33-26, and then a 7-1 mini surge at 14:44 of the second half got them as close as 42-40, but down the stretch Florida (17-9, 9-4 SEC) was never tied and never trailed as the Gators used that 17-7 run in the final 7 minutes to blow open a 56-52 lead.
The Razorbacks have now lost 5 consecutive games — all with second-leading scorer Isaiah Joe out while rehabilitating an injured knee — as part of a 10-game stretch in which they’ve only won twice. Arkansas is now 4-6 in true road games. And, the Hogs have lost 11 of of their last 12 meetings with the Gators, last winning a regular-season game in the series in February 2013 in Fayetteville. Arkansas still has not won in Gainesville since February 1995.
“We need more contributions, we’re short-handed right now,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said during his brief post-game radio interview. “And it’s obviously affected us the last 10 games without a question.”
Florida jumped all over Arkansas early, 30-11, as the Hogs went 9:19 of game time without a field goal, but an Adrio Bailey three-pointer was the first score in his 9-point outburst that was the catalyst in the Hogs’ 15-3 first-half-ending run. Before that run, Florida was 10-of-16 shooting (including 5-of-7 from 3) and 5-of-6 on free throws while Arkansas was 2-of-15 from the field (including 0-of-4 from 3) and 7-of-9 on free throws.
The Gators were up 36-31 and attempting to inbound the ball after a foul call on Arkansas’s Desi Sills, but a deadball “Class A foul” was called on the Gators for shoving Bailey to the ground as he leaned in to Florida’s huddle, resulting in 2-of-2 free throw shooting by junior guard Mason Jones that pulled Arkansas within one possession, 36-33, at 18:10.
Sophomore 6-8 forward Ethan Henderson — he made his first start as a Razorback on Tuesday — dunked twice as bookends to a three-point basket by junior guard Jalen Harris as Arkansas used a 7-1 spurt to chop its deficit down to two points, 42-40, at the 14:44 mark. The Hogs would have two possessions trailing by that 42-40 score with chances to either tie or take the lead, but failled both times before Florida slowly built up multiple-possession leads.
A Bailey lay-in with 7:00 remaining got Arkansas within 56-52, but Florida would close the game with its 17-7 run to win going away.
Arkansas was beaten on the glass (36-26), but the Hogs were plus-3 on the offensive boards (11-8) while winning points-in-the-paint (32-26) and drawing even in second-chance-points (11 apiece). The Hogs were only plus-3 in turnovers (15-12) as the Gators won points-off-turnovers (18-12).
Arkansas was 22-of-55 from the field (40%), including only 3-of-16 from 3 (18.8%), while Florida was 23-of-46 shooting (50%), including 6-of-16 from 3 (37.5%). It was the third consecutive game that Arkansas’s defense gave up at least 49% field goal shooting and 37% three-point shooting.
Florida made 21-of-25 free throws (84%), inlcuding 15-of-17 in the second half. Arkansas was 12-of-19 on free throws (63.2%), including 5-of-9 in the second half.
Jones, the SEC’s leading scorer coming in at 20.8 points per game, finished with 21 points (7-of-16 field goals, including 0-of-4 from 3, and 7-of-10 free throws), 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 4 turnovers in 40 minutes.
Bailey had 16 points (7-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-5 from 3), 8 rebounds, and 1 steal in 30 minutes. Jimmy Whitt, Jr. chipped in 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists in 37 minutes. Henderson finished with 7 points (3-of-4 field goals and 1-of-3 free throws), 3 rebounds, and 1 block in 11 minutes before fouling out.
Arkansas’s 5-game losing streak has coincided with Joe (16.0 points per game) sitting out the last 5 games after having an arthroscopic procedure on his injured right knee on Feb. 4. Joe returned to practice on Monday, he traveled with the team to Gainesville, and he took part in the team’s pre-game shootaround although he did not play Tuesday night.
Florida’s 6-5 sophomore forward Keyontae Johnson — he had 20 points and 12 rebounds as a freshman in Florida’s 66-50 win over Arkansas in the SEC tournament last March — recorded another double-double against the Hogs on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 24 points (inclduded 15-of-17 free throw shooting) to go with 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. Sophomore guards Andrew Nembhard (17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists) and Noah Locke (11 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Gators.
Arkansas was able to get senior grad-transfer Kerry Blackshear, Jr., into early foul trouble and limited the Gators’ leading scorer and rebounder to only 2 points and 5 rebounds in 12 minutes.
Up next for Arkansas, the Hogs return home for a Saturday matchup against Missouri at BWA.