The momentum had built around the Florida Gators (18-3) as they ventured out-of-town to visit the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-8). Ten straight victories, number two ranking in the AP poll (highest regular season ranking since 2007) and victory margins that are simply unheard of. That momentum was then stopped in its tracks Tuesday night thanks to an 80-69 loss for Florida that was a lot worse than the score indicates.
Last week, Florida held South Carolina to 36 points in an entire game. fArkansas did that in each half, scoring 43 in the first and 37 in the second.
The Razorbacks led from wire to wire thanks in part to a shooting performance in the first half that was nothing short of unbelievable at times. The first three made baskets of the game for Arkansas were three pointers, part of a 7-for-9 start to the proceedings from the land of plenty. The Gators countered that with starting the game 1-for-7 from the field, an abysmal start to a game that would only get worse. When the first half carnage was over, Arkansas shot 53.3% from the field and 53.8% from the three. Florida shot 29.2% from the field and 36.4% from three.
The second half didn’t start out very promising either. The Gators committed two fouls and two turnovers in the first two minutes, and a 17 point halftime deficit swelled to 23. Arkansas had an answer for any and all attempts by Florida to swing momentum their way, at one point holding a 27 point lead. The Gators battled all second half, most valiantly during a 19-5 stretch spanning almost 6 minutes and Florida was able to cut the lead down to 13. However right when Gator Nation saw a glimmer of hope, Micheal Qualls threw down a thunderous jam over Patric Young who committed his fifth and final personal foul. As Young retreated to the bench with 3:41 remaining, so did Florida’s slim hopes of pulling a shocker out of their hats.
Florida’s scoring output did end up being balanced, Kenny Boynton led all players with 15 points and six Gators had nine or more points. Part of the problem was that Arkansas was almost just as balanced, if not more. The Razorbacks had six players with eight or more points and two more with seven points apiece. Florida also turned the ball over 16 times, a cardinal sin in a hostile environment against an opponent firing on any and all cylinders.
Florida was further undone by losing Will Yeguete, who tweaked his already ailing knee early in the game and did not return. Without Yeguete’s hustle there was an obvious lack of pep in Florida’s step, especially on the defensive end.
The sky is not falling for the Gators however, it is early February, a myriad of factors contributed to the demise of what is still a very good basketball team on Tuesday night. The aura of invincibility, and dreams of an 18-0 conference run are now figments of the imagination. The loss is not something to dwel on, but should serve as a good reminder that on any given night, even historically dominant teams can be beat.
Florida will attempt to return to wining ways Saturday February 9th, at home, against Mississippi State.