ST. LOUIS – Florida left the SEC Tournament late Friday night following its quarterfinal loss to Arkansas down, but not out.
The No. 23 Gators regressed in their 80-72 loss to the Razorbacks. But UF has been in this situation before. Last year, Florida lost in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals against Vanderbilt before making a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
The Arkansas loss snapped a three-game UF win streak to close the regular season in which the Gators had been playing their best basketball of the season.
“We just have to refocus our minds and come together as a group and play like we’ve been playing,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said.
Florida (20-12) is projected as a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament by both ESPN.com’s Joe Lundari and CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm. Lunardi has UF playing as a 6 seed in Dallas against 11 seed Western Kentucky, while Palm has the Gators playing as a 6 seed in Wichita State against the winner of an 11 seed matchup between Marquette and Saint Mary’s in Dayton.
“No matter who we are playing we have to come out and try to play how we play, that’s hard and with a lot of energy and focus on the defensive end,” Chiozza said.
With the early exit from the SEC Tournament, the Gators will get some time back in Gainesville to iron out those issues in practice. Against Arkansas, Florida allowed its most points since losing 83-66 to Florida State on Dec. 4.
“We’ve just got to get back to the basics, get back to competing, playing hard,” Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson said. “We’ve got to do it every day in practice and I think we’ll be fine. I don’t think we want to feel like this again.”
On offense, Florida was done in against Arkansas by its inability to score close to the basket. The Gators went just 12 for 28 on two-point shots, compared to 13 of 32 on 3-point attempts.
“We’re about to move into the last chapter,” Florida coach Mike White said. “But we’ve got to continue to figure out a way to, and continue how to brainstorm as a staff to figure out how we can finish at the rim better.”
FREE THROWS: The Gators dropped to 7-8 on the season as a ranked team, compared to 13-4 as an unranked team. The good news? Florida will likely fall out of the AP Top 25 on Monday. … Chiozza took little consolation in becoming the 54th UF player to reach 1,000 career points in scoring Friday night. “It’s another accolade, but I don’t really care about those,” Chiozza said. “They are good to have, but it don’t mean nothing to me with a loss.” … At 1,006 career points, Chiozza joined Erving Walker and Kasey Hill as the third player in UF history with 1,000 career points and 500 career assists. With 194 assists this season, Chiozza climbed to third in a single season in UF history. Only Nick Calathes (221 in 2007-08 and 221 in 2008-09) has dished more assists in a season than Chiozza. … Hudson also passed the 1,000-point career scoring mark with 6 points against Arkansas. Hudson has scored a combined 1,004 points at Virginia Tech and Florida. … White dropped to 1-3 during his UF tenure in SEC Tournament games. UF’s last SEC Tournament win came against Arkansas when the Gators downed the Razorbacks 68-61 on March 10, 2016.