Arkansas bounces No. 23 Florida from SEC tourney

Florida guard Chris Chiozza falls with the ball as Arkansas' Daniel Gafford (10) and Daryl Macon watch during the first half Friday of the quarterfinal game at the Southeastern Conference tournament in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — Another season. Another early exit for Florida in the SEC Tournament.

For the second straight year, the No. 23 Gators were unable to take advantage of a double bye in the event. Behind 27 points from senior guard Jaylen Barford, six-seed Arkansas knocked off the third-seeded Gators 80-72 on Friday at the Scottrade Center.

Florida hasn’t reached the semifinals of the SEC Tournament since 2014, the year the Gators last won the event. Playing on a six-day layoff, Florida looked rusty at times and reverted to taking questionable shots and enduring defensive lapses.

“Sometimes it can be a good thing, sometimes it can be a bad thing,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “I guess it was a bad thing for us. We had a good flow going, we were really getting after it on the defensive end. The time off, we thought it  would be better, more fresher getting a couple of guys back that had bumps and bruises. It was the opposite. We came out low on energy.”

Now, the Gators will await Selection Sunday to find out their seed and NCAA Tournament destination. At 20-12, Florida could drop to a 6 or 7 seed due to the early exit. But UF’s 10 Quadrant 1 wins will weigh heavily in the discussion as to where UF is seeded. The loss snapped UF’s three-game win streak and an eight-game win streak against the Razorbacks that dated back to 2013.

“We were coming off the best stretch of performances that we put together all year and tonight we took a step backward,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We’ve got to find a way to get home and regroup and find our mojo, get back to where we were playing our last three games.”

After a layup by Florida freshman guard Mike Okauru cut Arkansas lead to 50-48 with 10:00 left, the Razorbacks took control of the game with a 12-0 run. Barford scored six points during the run, including a 3-pointer that put the Razorbacks up 62-48 with 5:04 left.

“He scored on whoever was guarding him,” White said. “He scored off ball screens. He scored off step-back jumpers against our bigs … played like a first-team guard both offensively and defensively. Two games this year he has dominated us.”

Redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone led three UF scorers in double figures with 22 points. Chiozza added 16 points and 6 assists, becoming the 54th player in UF history to reach 1,000 career points. But guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov struggled, going a combined 4 of 20 from the floor.

“We weren’t the same team that we have been,” Hudson said.

Arkansas shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half and 46.7 percent from the field for the game. It was the most points Florida has allowed since falling 83-66 to Florida State on Dec. 4.

“We had a couple of breakdowns, but we still should have fought like we did in past games,” Stone said. “We should have tightened up on defense. Just because we missed shots doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have played defense.”

Florida got off to a hot start, making four of its first seven shots from the field and 3 of its first 5 3-point attempts. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Chiozza and Koulechov and a driving layup from Stone gave Florida an early 18-10 lead.

But Arkansas charged back, cutting UF’s lead to 21-20 on a 3-pointer by Barford that clanged off both the backboard and rim before falling through the basket.

From there, Florida regrouped, going back up 29-23 on a 3-pointer by Okauru with 4:54 left in the first half. It would be UF’s last basket of the first half. Florida missed its final five attempts from the field and were whistled for two shot clock violations in some ugly halfcourt sets. Overall, Florida had three shot clock violations in the first half.

Arkansas took advantage, closing the half on an 8-0 run to take a 30-29 lead into halftime. All four baskets from Arkansas came inside, which including a Gafford putback dunk and a layin by Adrio Bailey that gave Arkansas the halftime lead.

Florida finished the first half shooting 44 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from 3-point range (7-15).

“We were doing a good job against their man with our guards, getting shots and creating shots for other people,” Chiozza said. “So they went to a zone, a matchup zone, we had trouble finding people, moving the ball around, got kinda stagnant.”

Hudson, UF’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, was unable to get on track early. He missed both of his attempts from the field, both of his free throw attempts and sat the final 8:02 of the first half after picking up his second foul.

Freshman center Daniel Gafford added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Arkansas (23-10). The Razorbacks outrebounded Florida 43-28 and outscored the Gators 18-15 in second chance points. The Razorbacks will move on to face 2nd seed Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN.

“Second half, I thought we came out with great intensity,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought we came out with focus on defense and doing the little things, the details of rebounding the basketball and getting to 3-point shooters.”

ARKANSAS (23-10)

Bailey 1-2 0-0 2, Gafford 8-11 0-0 16, Macon 2-9 8-10 13, Beard 3-6 2-4 10, Barford 9-17 5-6 27, Cook 2-4 0-2 4, Osabuohien 0-2 0-0 0, Hall 2-4 1-2 6, Thompson 1-3 0-0 2, Jones 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 16-24 80.

FLORIDA (20-12)

Hayes 2-3 0-0 4, Hudson 2-9 0-2 6, Allen 4-11 1-3 11, Koulechov 2-11 2-2 8, Chiozza 5-11 4-4 16, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Stone 8-10 2-3 22, Gak 0-0 0-0 0, Ballard 0-1 0-0 0, Okauru 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 25-60 9-14 72.

Halftime_Arkansas 30-29. 3-Point Goals_Arkansas 8-18 (Barford 4-9, Beard 2-3, Hall 1-1, Macon 1-3, Jones 0-1, Osabuohien 0-1), Florida 13-31 (Stone 4-5, Chiozza 2-4, Hudson 2-5, Allen 2-6, Koulechov 2-7, Okauru 1-3, Ballard 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Arkansas 40 (Gafford 12), Florida 27 (Koulechov 6). Assists_Arkansas 8 (Macon, Beard 3), Florida 13 (Chiozza 6). Total Fouls_Arkansas 16, Florida 21. A_14,596 (21,000).


  1. Same team, same inconsistency. They will not advance in the tournament with no rebounding and paint protection. Hudson a no show. Allen timid. Egor defensive liability. Hayes is garbage. Stone was the only player who showed up. Whites rotation sucks.

      • bf… I never liked the hire in the first place. Said he was a “pretty good” coach but not someone you hire to run an elite program built by an elite coach like Donovan. You don’t hire coaches from LA. Tech to coach at UF and expect the same results. Unfortunately, White will get another year before he’s finally replaced.

        Personally, I saw this loss coming from a mile away. Every time we get a decet run of wins, we sink right back into this funk of inconsistency. That’s on coach White.

        • Donovan came from Marshall, and took over a team that was two years removed from a Final Four. It took him four seasons to get them back. After that, UF failed to make it out of the first week-end of the tournament for five straight seasons. White took over a team that was two years removed from a Final Four and got them to the Elite Eight in two seasons. I’m not trying to suggest that White is necessarily on Donovan’s level, but it’s way too soon to tell after only three seasons.

    • I have a friend who keeps saying this, but if Egor was 6’10”, we’d be so much better. Injuries have plagued our front lines, we’ll have a way better interior next season. If only Hayes had hands!!

      • I am liking Stone more and more. About Hayes, I wish he could provide more but at least he, and Stone, seem to survive the injuries that keep our other bigs out of the game for lengthy periods of time.

  2. Horrible game. Just when I thought they were improving they give us this stinker of a game. They were an embarrassment. No energy, no fire, no determination, no defense, no rebounding, no offensive (they were offensive to watch), no ball movement, no shooting. Did I miss anything? No, but the Gators did. They could not make a shot almost 5 minutes to close out the 1st half. You knew it was over then. They gave up. The Gators were totally manhandled, out hustled, out worked, out played, out willed. No one but KS showed up. Play like this in the NCAA’s and they are one and done. Don’t even bother to shown up (they did not tonight).

    • Before the game, I said that I’d be equally happy with a win or a loss, a win because obviously I want to see my gators do well, but a loss spares us a ton of energy spent on the tournament. However, I was upset at the WAY we lost. I’ve only seen the guys give up like this once – against Alabama the first time, and that didn’t go well. Koulechov and Hudson were off, Hayes had some key mistakes, Allen was too little too late, Stone really showed up, but he didn’t have help.

      As for the NCAAs, I agree. Playing like this is the reason the madness exists. Don’t predict us to go out in the first round before we see who we play. If we play someone big and scrappy we’re in some trouble.

    • Joel, you’re absolutely right about the shooting. It wasn’t good, and that’s been their biggest problem this season. They needed Allen and Hudson to stay aggressive and shoot well, and that didn’t happen. If the Gators shoot well, they’re competitive and usually win. If not, they usually get results like last night. I would disagree with your assertion that the players gave up. When the Hogs’ lead got to 14, they could’ve rolled over, but they fought back and cut it to 5. They weren’t able to complete the comeback, but they did fight to get back in the game.

      • When I say they gave up I don’t mean they totally stopped trying. What I mean is that they were not putting out the effort. They did not box out. They did not fight for rebounds. They did not play defense. They did not move the ball, They did not move without the ball. They took poor shots because they were not working hard. How many shot clock violations did they have? How many late possessions throw something up did they have? They did not give maximum effort. That is what I am pissed about as a fan.

        • I agree they didn’t handle the zone defense well at all, and the failure to move the ball against it did cause a number of the poor shots and shot clock violations. I’ll concede there wasn’t enough fire and energy, but I still think the main issue is execution and shooting. I certainly understand your disappointment, though, and I’m right there with you. I still think they could sneak into the Sweet 16 with favorable match-ups, but they could lose in the first round, too.

    • Yep, it sure looks like it. They should expect to see plenty of zone defense in the their first round match. With this loss, I think they drop from a potential 5 seed to a 6 and maybe even a 7 seed so good chance they play a good team that can shut them down with a good zone defense. 🙁

    • Funny, as they’re a three-point shooting team. I’m surprised how “deer in the headlights” this team gets against it when with Chiozza and three point shooting guards + Stone, it shouldn’t have problems poking holes in it.

    • Can’t shoot, won’t win (what you said)
      Can shoot, will win

      Not saying your statement is false – on the contrary I wholeheartedly agree. But both of these statements describe our team, depending on the game. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this team is frightening.

  3. Gators have too many candy a••es and limp wristers. Throw in the fake coach and one has a recipe for losers.

    They will get bounced in the first round by an 11-seed.

    Until White is gone, Florida bb is …

    • bf –
      We’ve seen in another sport how cycling through coaches can be detrimental to the program. Mullen is the 4th coach in a decade, and it’s just not healthy for teams to go like this.
      If you ask me… 20 wins and a season sweep of kentucky + making the tournament? I’ll take thate every year! I don’t see what the complaint is. You will need to defined what “f”‘ed is.
      You do have a point, however, in our limp wrists. Hayes doesn’t have hands and Basset doesn’t have experience. Gak can barely practice and he’s limping (no pun intended) into the postseason with all the injuries he’s had. Egbunu being out, + Stokes + Johnson (who we don’t know, but I’d have to think could help get Hayes + Bassett rest) really hurts this team. Look at Auburn – they lost their big man on a huge 3-point shooting team. Since then, 2-4 in last 6 games. The fact that we’re making the tournament with no front line is a testament to the coaching ability of Mike White with a bunch of head cases.
      Talk to me in two years about Mike White if he misses the tournament both years.

      • Dr Pep……you shouldn’t even bother to defend Mike White against BF, who is nothing but a White hater no matter what White does or how well this team performs most of the time.

        This game showed the problem is with some players not the coaching. Why do the guards slowly bring the the ball up court then once past half court end up at the extreme back corners to start the offense with the clock now half gone? This often results in forced bad shots or clock violation…..thus loss of momentum, loss of fire, loss of confidence, etc. Sad.

  4. How do you make 13 3s and still lose by 8, for starters you get killed on the boards, 40-28, you lose the turnover battle and get out shot at the FT line. Gafford, the big 6’11” center for the Hogs killed inside with 16 points and 12 rebounds. After a 46-46 tie with around 11 minutes remaining, Arkansas went on a 16-2 run and never looked back. Gators probably looking at a 6 seed, which means a second round matchup against a team like Purdue, Arizona, Texas Tech, Kansas or North Carolina, Yikes!!!

    • We have to get to the second round first, Kevin. I’d rather play a 2-3 seed that we match up well against than a 10-11 seed that we don’t.

      This was a game where we missed out on the little things. Missed FTs and turnovers late led to us not being able to convert on 2 for 3 plays. That macon guy can hit some FTs!

  5. No surprise here.. on to the NCAA tournament. I am hoping for at least a 1st round victory but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them bounced in the first round nor would I be surprised to see them get to the final four. They’re just that unpredictable!! Their only chance to win any game is to ride the hot hand and block out the hype. They can do the former but they have proven they can do the latter. Unfortunately, with wins will come the hype and so my prediction is a sweet sixteen appearance at best. MW will be able to get them back on track and through that first week but the hype train will be lurking as soon as they start playing well.

  6. The ultimate non aggressive team Florida has had in years. The most inconsistent. The worst interior defense in the SEC. Hayes is clumsy and has weak hands. Stone will develop nicely. Unless bigs commit to the program, this team will continue to falter. White leaves a lot to be desired and his tenure will be short hopefully. Stone showed up but had NO help offensively. They Will be bounced in their first game in the tournament. Sickening to watch the consistent ineptitude.

    • James, what you have just said is a common misconception. I was listening to 98.1 the other day and they were talking about just that. We HAVE bigs. We already have hayes gak and bassett, but we have Egbunu maybe coming back, Stokes, Johnson, and THEN our next recruiting class. That’s a whole lot of bigs.

      What… exactly… is White leaving to be desired. 20 wins, a tour berth, and a season sweep of kentucky? I’ll take that every single year.

      This team is aggressive when it wants to be. It just wasn’t tonight.

      • Yeah, let’s discuss the next recruiting class. No one over 6-5 coming for next year. Guess you mean 2019 class. We are in, on none of those yet. The one who was going to visit, didn’t and committed to LSU.
        You say Johnson and Stokes. Both are power forwards and Stokes is very heavy and Johnson didn’t show much when he played in Nov.

        • gatorlover, with only 13 total scholarships there’s rarely, if ever, more than 3 or 4 available in a particular year. With Chiozza graduating, there’s nobody you can trust to run the point, so that’s a need that had to be addressed and, White signed a 5 star point guard (Nembhard). With Allen and Hudson as seniors next season, shooting guard is also a major concern, so White signed a 4 star shooting guard (Locke). After losing Robinson and Leon from last year’s front court, White signed Johnson and Stokes in the 2017 class to address those needs. I’m not sure what else you think White can do. The one-and-done players are always gonna go to the blue bloods with very few exceptions.

      • Dr. We are just pointing out the obvious. This team lacks paint presence offensively and defensively. Potential will get you beat. Effort will eliminate some inconsistency. Hayes in particular. He is a two star player at best who didn’t work on his game during the off season. There is a certain timid uncertainty with Allen in his approach to the offence ,which is attributable to lackadaisical effort. But, he has lots of company on this team.

  7. Someone might mention to White that the strategy to attack a zone is not to dribble, but to pass and have a guy at the high post, such as Stone. Between Chiozza and Egor, turnovers were plentiful and forced shots or clock violations were numerous.
    This team definitely lacks rebounders, White wouldn’t play his hottest player on the night, no defense, and Arkgansas 2nd shot and tips were killing.
    White is simply in over his head, as several of us have said all along. We may get hot and win one but 2 in a row is probably out of reach for this bunch.
    Recruiting is not White’s forte, either, particularly instate which is loaded. One top 2018 signed with A&M from state finalist Oak Ridge, another from Oak Ridge to sign with LSU, best 2019 leaning to Duke or Miami. It goes on and on. Vernon Maxwell’s son leaning to Duke or Carolina.

  8. Once again, when the Gators lose a game, by starts with the firing nonsense and the world of Gator basketball is crumbling down. Don’t gave SEC network, so I couldn’t see the game, and wasn’t able to listen to it, but it sounds like from not only you guys, but the players and coach that they know that they didn’t play with the same intensity that finished off the regular season strong. On a brighter side, a 6 seed will keep them from having to play in either San Diego or Boise. Of course, the committee rarely drops teams because of their tournaments, and typically allows teams to boost themselves with it. They’ll probably stay a 5 seed. Until then, just say they played bad in that game, which i’ve seen more than my share of better overall Gator teams go one and done in the SEC tourney, and leave it at that.

  9. yes, we don’t know how to play against a zone. Very simple. Put a guy at the high post, if they are playing a 2-3 go uneven out front with a 1. And, pass the ball, very little dribbling. Worked for Rupp and Wooden and still would work today.

  10. It’s amazing to me how many seem to think that they know better how to attack a zone than coaches at a major college level. Makes me wonder why they aren’t making the big bucks coaching at that level. (I assume that they aren’t since they would not have the time or interest to post here if they were.) It’s one thing for players to know what they should do; it’s another for them to actually do it. Also, the Arkansas zone was not a run-of-the-mill 2-3 zone since it was a match-up zone that mixes elements of man-to-man and zone. My sense was that the biggest factor in how the Gators played at that point in the game was that Arkansas raised its intensity to another level and the Gators did not do the same. I doubt that any strategy would have helped as long as the Gators failed to match the intensity of their opponent.

    • Intensity was a factor. Ball movement was another. Too much dribbling stagnated the offensive flow. Inconsistent shooters with the exception of Stone. White wants to control every offensive possession which slows momentum. They should be allowed more freedom to create occasionally. Doing so, doesn’t restrict their rythim offensively.

  11. All you Florida fans do is complain, based on these comments it’s clear most on this page doesn’t know anything about basketball. You will always be inconsitan if you don’t have BIGS in the middle. They have played at a disadvantage all year.