Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Whether from the field and the free throw line or taking care of the basketball, the Arkansas Razorbacks gave themselves almost no shot until furiously too late at the Florida Gators Wednesday night at Walton Arena. Florida prevailed, 57-51.
In the final 9:19 the Mason Jones led Razorbacks closed a 48-32 deficit to 53-51 at 1:02.
But first sophomore guard Jones, a career high 30 points and forward Adrio Bailey, rebounding and trying underneath to put back Jones’ miss missed shots with 24 seconds and 21 seconds left trying to tie it.
Gators senior guard KeVaughn Allen, the North Little Rock High grad and a Florida senior bedeviling Arkansas in Walton for the last time leading Florida with 18 points, hit consecutive free throws with 12 seconds and two seconds left icing a 57-51 Florida triumph.
Allen hit 11 of 12 free throws on a night that Florida hit 15 of 19 and played with the senior savvy that Anderson marked “experience vs. inexperience on display” comparing the Gators starting three seniors while Bailey, Arkansas’ oldest, is its lone junior.
“He (Allen) was the best player on the court I thought,” White said, catching an overstatement. “I say that, Mason Jones was pretty good, but KeVaughn was our best player tonight.”
With all Jones did scoring 30 of course it still of course had to be asked about his last shot that didn’t score.
“I came off the pick from Adrio and I feel like I had a lane,” Jones said. “I feel like I should have pulled up, but I missed the shot,” Jones said. “Adrio got the rebound and he had a chance to make the layup and missed. We got two good shots in the last seconds.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson recalled of the final close but no cigars:
“We had two shots. Mason’s shot off balance and Adrio had one there point blank. We had a point blank shot (and missed). It just seemed like that’s how it was all night tonight But again you are trying to climb that hill up and you expend so much energy. Other than Mason, we didn’t shoot well at all.”
Jones nearly about became Arkansas’ one-man offensive show.
“He carried us,” Anderson said. “He kept us in it. He played with that sense of urgency, that passion you’ve got to play with. He got to the free throw line 12 times. He played a lot of minutes (34) tonight as well.”
Arkansas needed Jones hitting 12 of 13 free throws to make 15 of 26.
Florida mostly didn’t even have to play particularly well to beat the Razorbacks until Arkansas’ finishing surge.
A winner on the SEC road last Saturday at Texas A&M, the Razorbacks take 10-4 overall and 1-1 SEC records into their net game hosting the LSU Tigers at 5 p.m. Saturday at Walton.
Coach Mike White’s Gators, 9-5, 1-1 losing a 14-point lead at home last Saturday losing to South Carolina, host nationally No. 3 SEC rival Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.
The Razorbacks needed their final surge just to hit 15 of 50 from the field and committed 12 first half turnovers with 16 turnovers for the game to Florida’s 12.
Jones was the lone Razorback scoring double figures. Foul plagued center Daniel Gafford scored nine while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds.
Arkansas played among its all-time worst first halves witnessed at Walton.
Frankly, Florida often didn’t play much better despite leading 33-22 at intermission.
At one point the teams misfired for a combined 0 of 21 on threes (Florida 0 of 12 and Arkansas 0 of 9).
Arkansas committed 12 first-half turnovers, many unforced, including seven during an 8:18 span.
“We saw where we didn’t show up with that sense of urgency in the first half and allowed Florida to get a cushion that went up even bigger in the second half,” Anderson said. “
Arkansas took a 6-2 lead then went dry for 7:57 until a Gafford free throw while mostly turning it over.
After a Bailey dunk at 15:57, the Razorbacks didn’t net a field goal until Jalen Harris’ drive at 6:11 followed by a Mason Jones three.
Jones hit the 2 of Arkansas’ 2 of 14 first-half threes and scored 13 first-half points while the Gators shot but 3 of 16.
Allen shot 0 for 4 on first-half treys but aided by 7 of 8 free throws led Florida’s first half scoring with 11 points.
Gafford exited with his second foul at 4:45 and Arkansas down 20-17.
Obviously the Gators capitalized finishing up 33-22 at intermission.
Gafford was sitting again with his third foul at 18:42 of the second half. Gafford returned only to sit again with his fourth foul at 9:44 and replaced by backup Gabe Osabuohien already playing with four fouls.
Gators guards Allen and Andrew Nembhard and center Kevarrius Hayes also amassed their third fouls early n the second half.
Twenty-four fouls, 12 on each team, were whistled during the sloppy first half.
The Gators capitalized on the first-half slop sinking 10 of 12 free throws to Arkansas’ 6 of 10 at intermission.
Arkansas’ bench, instrumental in recent Razorbacks’ successes, was outscored, 10-0 by Florida’s reserves though Osabuohien’s eight rebounds helped Arkansas outboard the Gators, 42-39.
“Our bench played hard but they did not score a point tonight,” Anderson said. “So when you have all those things take place, it’s kind of a mountain you’ve got to climb. We didn’t get it done. Give Florida credit. They are a good defensive team. But for us to score 51 points at home – that’s something we’ve got to get better at.”
Nate Allen Sports