Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Florida stunned by Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Florida ran into an Arkansas team lying in wait Tuesday night, one that started quickly and never let up in an 80-69 win over the second-ranked Gators.

The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for Florida (18-3, 8-1 SEC), which had ascended to No. 2 in the AP poll one day earlier.

Arkansas opened the game 15-of-20 from the field. Michael Qualls and Marshawn Powell had 11 points each and 11 players scored for the Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4) in their first win over a top 10 team since early in 2008-09.

The Gators started 4-of-15 from the field and were 7-of-24 in the first half. They never recovered in suffering their first loss since a 67-61 setback at Kansas State on Dec. 22.

That loss also marked the most points Florida had allowed this season before Tuesday night.

"Clearly we did not play the level of defense that we had played," coach Billy Donovan said. "A combination of I didn't think we did a very good job and a combination of I thought they did do a very good job.

"They made some shots there early in the game and got themselves going."

Mike Rosario led Florida with 15 points. Scottie Wilbekin added 14, Michael Frazier 11 and Kennny Boynton 10.

The Razorbacks gave second-year coach Mike Anderson the signature win had he been looking for in an electric Bud Walton Arena.

BJ Young led three players in double figures with 13 points as Arkansas opened quickly and never let up, fueled by a raucous crowd of 13,816. It was an energy-filled arena that reminded Anderson of the Arkansas of old, when he was an assistant to former coach Nolan Richardson and the Razorbacks were among the nation's best.

Arkansas, 14-1 at home, visits UF's O'Connell Center on Feb. 23.

"If I gave two game balls tonight, one would certainly go to our fans," Anderson said. "This place was lively tonight. It brought back a lot of memories for myself, especially sitting on that bench and seeing our fans so engaged in the game."

After trailing by as many as 23 points in the first half, the Gators cut the lead to 43-26 at halftime.

The Razorbacks didn't give Florida a chance to come up for air to open the second half, forcing turnovers on two straight possessions to open the half and extending the lead 49-26 on a jumper by Qualls.

Florida had one final run in it, responding with an 11-2 stretch to cut the deficit to 51-37 after an inside basket by Frazier.

The Gators did close the gap to 11, but by then it was too late against an Arkansas team that hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 2008. The Razorbacks were then coached by current Florida assistant John Pelphrey, who entered Bud Walton Arena to handshakes and hugs before walking off the court with a stunning loss in his second return to his former home.

"They had that lead and we just kept trying to chip away, but they kept coming at us and eventually time just ran out," Florida's Erik Murphy said.

The win was Arkansas' first over a top 10 team since victories over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas early in 2008-09, Pelphrey's second season.

Anderson took over last season, and his previous best win was over then-No. 15 Mississippi State. Tuesday's game was the third in six days for the Razorbacks, who have yet to win away from home this season.

"They were ready to play," Anderson said. "And I don't think it was just one game. Hopefully, I think, they want to continue to build on what's been taking place with this team."

Hunter Mickelson responded to Florida's second-half run with a putback for the Razorbacks, beginning a 16-3 run that opened the lead to 67-40 and put the game well out of reach.

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