Second-ranked Florida falls at Arkansas
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Here’s the kind of night it was for No. 2 Florida against unranked Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena.
In three straight trips to start the second half, the Gators turned the ball over. Then, later in the second half, junior forward Casey Prather followed up two missed free throws with a missed layup in transition. On the next trip down the floor, point guard Scottie Wilbekin came up short on an easy transition layup.
With little focus on defense and poor shot selection on offense, the No. 2 Gators tumbled back to earth with an 80-69 loss to Arkansas that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Florida trailed by as many as 27 points in the second half and by 22 points with 6:20 remaining before a late rally fell more than double-digits short.
“It’s a reality check for us, to let us know that there’s a lot we still need to work on,” Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said. “Better now than later.”
Florida (18-3, 8-1 SEC) had its season-high 10-game winning streak snapped in losing its first game in conference play. Worse yet, the Gators could be again without one of their key contributors. Junior forward Will Yeguete played just one minute before tweaking his knee and sitting out the rest of the game. It was reflaring of knee tendinitis that has bothered Yeguete on-and-off this season.
“I’m pretty concerned,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know what it is. He’s been dealing with some swelling now for a few weeks. He’s been very, very limited in practice the last couple of weeks. He’s probably going to go in for an MRI (today) to find out if there’s anything else there. He said he felt like he tweaked his knee and they took him back in the locker room and he had some significant swelling.”
The Gators couldn’t overcome a torrid Arkansas shooting start. The Razorbacks made 10 of their first 13 shots from the field and 7 of their first 9 3-point attempts to build a 36-13 first-half lead.
Arkansas led 43-26 at halftime and went on a 6-0 run to start the second half.
“We just got outplayed in every part of the game,” Florida senior forward Erik Murphy said. “We didn’t guard. We didn’t execute on offense.”
Mike Rosario led Florida with 15 points. Scottie Wilbekin added 14 points and freshman Michael Frazier scored 11 off the bench.
B.J. Young led Arkansas (14-8, 5-4 SEC) with 13 points. Marshawn Powell and Michael Qualls added 11 points apiece for the Razorbacks, who improved to 14-1 at home this season. Arkansas got 40 points off its bench, compared to 12 bench points for the Gators.
Florida was put in a bind early due to Yeguete’s injury and Patric Young picking up two first-half fouls. Young’s second foul with 13:29 left forced increased minutes for both Murphy and Prather. In just his third game back from a sprained ankle, Prather was still rusty. He finished with more fouls (four) and turnovers (two) than points.
“I generally don’t play a guy with two fouls (in the first half) but because of our frontcourt depth and fatigue, I had to sub Murphy some,” Donovan said. “We were probably pretty fortunate to get out of the half with Patric only having two fouls. We played a lot of zone in the first half, just because of trying to protect him with some fouls. But our depth was definitely somewhat of an issue there.”
Arkansas made shots over Florida’s zone. The Razorbacks shot 53.8 percent from 3-point range in the first half and 53.3 percent from the field.
Donovan said he felt there was still more the Gators could have done defensively to prevent the hot Arkansas start. Florida, which came into the game second in the nation in scoring defense at 51 points per game, allowed a season-high 80 points. UF’s previous season-high in points allowed was 67 in a 67-61 loss to Kansas State.
“We did a really poor job putting our hands up,” Donovan said. “Some of our close outs, we let them shoot the ball with their feet set. They didn’t have too many off-balance shots.”
Arkansas came into the game shooting just 29.8 percent from 3-point range.
“We knew that they could shoot better at home,” Boynton said. “Coach told us the 3-point line was going to be important in the game and we just didn’t listen.”
Offensively, Arkansas didn’t press, but still ended up with 21 points off 16 Florida turnovers.
“Our halfcourt defense was our press tonight,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “We were able to pressure them once we they got the ball past halfcourt.”
That led to some rushed shot attempts. The Gators shot just 29.2 percent from the field in the first half and were out of sync offensively.
“We had some good looks early in the game. Wilbekin missed a couple of short pull-ups, and Patric missed a layup underneath the basket,” Donovan said. “Generally you can overcome that by playing good defense, but it was not one of our best defensive efforts.”
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