Gators hold off Razorbacks, 57-51

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Florida senior guard KeVaughn Allen scored 18 points Wednesday in the win at Arkansas. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/File]

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — KeVaughn Allen was more focused on avoiding another late-game collapse than he was delivering another bit of heartbreak in his home state.

The Florida senior managed to do both in his final return to his native Arkansas on Wednesday night, scoring 18 points and delivering the game-sealing free throws in the final seconds of the Gators 57-51 win over the Razorbacks.

The win is the third straight and fifth in the last six games in Fayetteville for the Gators (9-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference), who were coming off a home loss to South Carolina last week — a game in which they led by 14 points with 11 minutes remaining.

Florida led by 16 points with 9:13 remaining against Arkansas (10-4, 1-1), only to see that lead shrink to 53-51 with under a minute remaining. Allen, originally from Arkansas, hit four free throws in the final 12 seconds to secure the win for the Gators and finished 11 of 12 from the line.

“Overall, to bounce back from the really heartbreaking loss we had Saturday and come in here and have some of the same hurdles we had to overcome, feels good of course,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Any time you win here, we’ll take it.”

Noah Locke also finished in double figures with 10 points for Florida, which held Arkansas to just 30 percent (15 of 50) shooting. Allen scored 11 first-half points as Florida built a 33-22 halftime lead, and the Gators appeared well on their way to a comfortable victory.

However, after much of the Bud Walton Arena crowd had left the building, the Razorbacks rallied and cut the Florida lead to 53-51 lead after a pair of free throws by Mason Jones — who finished with a career-high 30 points in the loss. Arkansas then kept the Gators from scoring on the other end and had two shots at the tie, with Adrio Bailey misfiring on a point-blank putback and Florida getting the ball back with 12 seconds remaining.

Allen was then fouled and capped his final homecoming with his four free throws to secure the victory, improving to 5-1 in his career against the Razorbacks.

“(Allen) was the best player on the court, I thought,” White said. “… KeVaughn was our best player tonight. He was really good.”

Jones topped his previous best of 21 points, a mark he had reached twice this year during his first season with the Razorbacks. The sophomore finished 7 of 13 from the field and 12 of 13 on free throws, and the rest of Arkansas players were a combined 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) from the field in the loss.

“I haven’t ever seen so many air balls,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “… I think we’re a much, much better basketball team than we showed tonight.”

Razorbacks standout Daniel Gafford played with four fouls for much of the second half and finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Florida was in desperate need of a win on Wednesday after opening SEC play with a home loss to South Carolina, a game in which the Gators let a 14-point lead with 11 minutes remaining slip away. A loss against the Razorbacks would have had Florida facing the real possibility of an 0-3 start to conference play with No. 3 Tennessee visiting Gainesville on deck — and two road games after that.

FREE FALLING

While Jones was nearly perfect on free throws in the loss, the rest of the Razorbacks were just 3 of 13 from the line. “People were just off tonight,” Jones said.

DEFENSIVE GATORS

Florida entered 10th in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 60.7 points per game. The Gators showed their defensive prowess throughout on Wednesday, pressuring an Arkansas team that hit only three of its first 15 shots and never recovered from the field.

UP NEXT

Florida hosts the Volunteers on Saturday.

The Razorbacks host LSU on Saturday.

FLORIDA 57, ARKANSAS 51
FLORIDA (9-5)

Hayes 1-4 2-2 4, Nembhard 2-6 1-2 6, Locke 4-8 0-0 10, Hudson 4-14 0-2 9, Allen 3-11 11-12 18, K.Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Bassett 3-5 1-1 7, Stone 0-2 0-0 0, Ballard 0-2 0-0 0, Okauru 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 18-58 15-19 57.

ARKANSAS (10-4)

Bailey 2-8 0-0 4, Gafford 3-4 3-6 9, Joe 2-10 0-1 6, Jones 7-13 12-13 30, Harris 1-5 0-2 2, Osabuohien 0-1 0-4 0, Chaney 0-2 0-0 0, Embery 0-4 0-0 0, Sills 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 15-50 15-26 51.

Halftime_Florida 33-22. 3-Point Goals_Florida 6-26 (Locke 2-5, Nembhard 1-2, Okauru 1-3, Hudson 1-5, Allen 1-9, Ballard 0-1, Stone 0-1), Arkansas 6-26 (Jones 4-9, Joe 2-9, Osabuohien 0-1, Embery 0-2, Sills 0-2, Harris 0-3). Fouled Out_Osabuohien. Rebounds_Florida 35 (Nembhard, Bassett, Locke, Hudson, Allen 5), Arkansas 35 (Gafford 12). Assists_Florida 9 (Nembhard 4), Arkansas 10 (Joe, Jones, Harris 3). Total Fouls_Florida 25, Arkansas 20.

37 COMMENTS

    • Yeah, I am hoping this is not a pattern. So I reall think the whole slow it down are try to milk the clock philosophy is crap. Seen it in FB (choke at Doke). It was employed tonight. Damn, keep you foot on their throat and keep choking until the buzzer. I hate that sizznit.

      • David, I don’t think this was as much about slowing it down as it was about a team not playing smart down the stretch, although I agree with you that there were times when they wasted too much shot clock before starting the offense. Hudson hit a couple of shots, but missed FT’s and offered almost no resistance on the defensive end. Allen bailed them out with FT’s, but even he jacked up a way too quick 3, turned the ball over against the press, and didn’t cut hard to get open on the inbounds plays against the press. If those two guys aren’t providing leadership, it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride until the freshmen can develop to fill that role. On the bright side, they did find a way to hang on in hostile venue under adverse conditions, so that’s at least some progress.

  1. Almost another meltdown. This time up by 16 with under 8 minutes to go. This game again showed how weak we are in the paint and how much in need of big men we are. I like Hayes and always have respected his hustle and shot blocking capability, but he continues to have no “hands” and is no rebounding or scoring force in the paint.

    • Hayes is not an ideal center, but he gives his all, all the time. Never lets up. But he cannot provide much offense and will get dominated by taller, just as athletic centers most of the time. But he played really well last night in the middle. He took away Arkansas’ center playing defense for most of the night. Hayes was one of the main reasons Florida beat Arkansas last night with his play, defensively in the middle against a very good scoring Arkansas center. And Stokes is mostly worthless on offense and defense due to his lack of mobility (I guess because of his knee injury in high school) and his lack of jumping ability. And Gak cannot play for whatever physical reason. Bassett comes in and plays hard. But he also limited offensive skills and does not have anywhere near the defensive skills that Hayes has. Florida has another Hayes type coming in next year, but he has a lot better offensive skills.

    • What is missing from last year is Hudson’s offense. But his lack of defensive skills are still around when he is on the floor; along with his over dribbling and a lack of movement and passing with and without the ball. But he did make a very big shot late in the game last night. Thank goodness for that, at least.

    • kevin. Last night was not a miracle. It was a upset because a team (Florida) played tremendous defense for most of the game and made key shots at the end. Give credit where credit is due if you are going to rip that same team for folding the game before. And give White credit for getting the team off the floor after losing a tough one to South Carolina and coming out strong to upset a good Arkansas team at their place.

  2. I’m going to stay positive for now. This is a young team that’s still “jellying”, but with no real Senior leadership, they have no “finish it off instinct” (IE. killer instinct, non PC). I presently watch with an expectation they are going to lose. Hopefully, they will evolve into the next stage of, I don’t know what’s going to happen, followed by a stage where I expect them to win. I will be back at the end of January to see where they are.

  3. I like Nembhard and I know he is only a freshman but he has just got to bring the ball up quicker and get the offense going. Way too often they are starting running their game with only 15 seconds on the shot clock. Given this is a team that has no inside game to speak of and relies so heavily on the outside shot, they need more time to run off ball screens to get open. They should be starting their sets with no less than 20 seconds and move without the ball. Defense was good for the most part, but they continue to foul way too much. They also need to work on bringing the ball in and breaking the press. Stokes did not play at all last night. I wonder if he was injured or what. He had been giving them at least some good minutes. Is Gak ever coming back? He may need to join Chase Johnson and free up the scholarship if he just cannot get healed up. They just have to get better on the front court to be a good team. Oh well as they say, a win is a win I guess. They better play a whole lot better against Tennessee at home Saturday or they are going to get taken to the wood shed.

    • Arkansas is not a big team and they are very young… I think that is why we went small ball which helped us defensively. Bassett played over 20 minutes so Stokes was not needed… Arkansas was probably too athletic for Stokes.

  4. South Carolina flashbacks. Same game. Different opponent. After pretty much dominating and controlling the game, at the 4 1/2 min. mark the team threw up all over itself – again! I just don’t get it.

    And clearly Coach White doesn’t either. Coach is clearly puzzled/frustrated by his upper classmen. The announcers wouldn’t shut up about all the freshmen and sophomores Arkansas was playing. Meanwhile the Gators have (3) seniors – which in the current basketball climate is unheard of – and those guys have been largely invisible this year. Allen, Hayes, Stone and Hudson should be leading. But they’re more dead weight than leaders (Kevaughn Allen has been o.k.). And they’re not supposed to be playing because of their class status and it’s “their turn”. All of them have been major contributors up till now. Now? I guess there’s an “Off” switch I’m not seeing.

    This is a tough team to watch.

  5. Despite not looking very sexy, well sometimes downright ugly, Gators are ranked #20 in KenPom. I had thought losing to USCe was a bad loss but they also just beat #14 MSU (#25 KenPom) so it was not so bad after all. The Gators are a bubble team right now with lots of room for improvement. Hopefully, they will figure it out and peak at the right time. If they continue to get tougher, and fight harder for those rebounds and loose balls, they might be alright come tournament time. Allen and Hudson are starting to get their groove back. If they can somehow beat #3 Tennessee on Saturday, it would do wonders for their confidence. Hopefully, the crowd will show up and get loud at the O’Dome on Saturday.

    • Sly, what makes the Carolina loss bad is not so much the quality of opponent, but the fact that UF had a 14 point lead at home in the 4th quarter in a conference game. For a team that is relying on their defense as their calling card, this should never happen. Watching last nights game was like watching a parade to the free throw line. For a team that will not shoot many free throws (and do it poorly) to begin with as a perimeter jump shooting team with no inside scoring, they commit far too many fouls of their own. Granted the officiating last night was a typical night at Walton arena for SEC officiating, but this team needs to adjust to the officiating better. They got bailed out last night with Arky missing so many free throws of their own, but better teams like Tennessee and Kentucky will not be so generous.

  6. Sly. Fingers crossed. But Tennessee has a great shooting team with big men and a team that plays excellent defense. The Vols might win it all this year. Going to be a big task to just stay in the game on Saturday. A win would be one of the biggest upsets in recent Gator basketball history.

    • This is one of the biggest games this season because of how high UT is ranked. Beating them will definitely be a tall task. If the Gators are successful, it will go a long ways in swaying the selection committee should they sit on the bubble on Selection Sunday. I’m hoping the home court advantage and a loud energetic crowd will be worth 20 points, exaggerated of course. If I were Coach White, I’d make my rounds to the media and on social media to drive a sellout turnout.

      • You’re right, Sly. This game is a great opportunity for the Gators to play a complete game and get a signature win. It will certainly be tough, and the Gators will need to shoot well to do it, and they’ll need a loud, rowdy crowd. Maybe home court will be worth at least 10.

  7. Congrats to White and our Gators! Must figure out how to switch gears and hold onto a lead and win. Milking the clock is okay but they can’t stop playing. Shooting contested 3s late in the shot clock is also not a good strategy. Did someone say dribble penetration!