Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Sometimes, it's just not your night. Sometimes, it's the other team's night.
And sometimes, as in Florida's case Tuesday, it's both.
Unranked and undaunted Arkansas pounced from the opening tip, stayed in its characteristic attack mode and rained uncharacteristic 3-point shots in a wire-to-wire 80-69 drubbing of the nation's second-ranked team, not only bringing the Gators back to the Southeastern Conference pack, but also back to earth after soaring to 10 straight victories.
Guard BJ Young scored 13 points while forward Marshawn Powell and guard Michael Qualls added 11 to lead a balanced Razorbacks stat sheet that showed eight players with at least seven points and 49-percent shooting against the SEC's best defensive team.
"We got outplayed in every part of the game ... and for the whole game, really," senior forward Erik Murphy said. "We didn't guard. We didn't execute offensively. They really just beat us and played faster than us the entire game."
The loss was the first of the 2013 calendar year for the Gators (18-3, 8-1), whose two-game cushion in the SEC race was cut to one, just ahead of surging Kentucky, which Tuesday defeated South Carolina.For the Razorbacks (14-8, 5-4), it not only was their first win over a ranked opponent this season, but the first over one ranked as high as No. 2 since defeating second-ranked Auburn on Feb. 2, 1999.
The fans at raucous Bud Walton Arena celebrated like it, too.
"It's a long season, it happens," senior guard Kenny Boynton. "They deserved it. They were the better team tonight."
Surprisingly better in one particularly area. Arkansas came into the game ranked 12th of 14 SEC teams in 3-point shooting at 29.8 percent for the season. All the Razorbacks did was open the game by hitting seven of their first eight from distance -- on the way to converting 14 of their first 18 field goals overall (that's 78 percent) -- to seize a 23-point lead 11 minutes into the game.
Though they made just one 3-point try in their final 10 attempts, the Razorbacks basically were never challenged after that, especially with UF junior center Patric Young saddled with two early fouls and backup post Will Yeguete leaving the game early in the first half after aggravating an already sore knee.
UF coach Billy Donovan said Yeguete would undergo magnetic resonance imaging Tuesday to determine the extent of his injury.How much difference a great defender like Yeguete would have made against the red-hot Razorbacks is questionable, though, given how they came out firing.
"They had guys shooting like 16 percent, guys shooting like 23 percent -- and they hit like seven 3s in a row at the beginning," said UF senior guard Mike Rosario, who led the team with 15 points. "It changed the whole momentum of the game."
Powell got things going with a trey to open the game. Not a huge surprise. He was 44.4 percent for the year.
But the next possession it was Mardracus Wade, at 27.6 percent, who drained one. Then after two Mike Rosario free throws, Wade hit another one. It was 9-3. A few minutes later it was Qualls at 12.5 percent. Then Young from 3. He came in at 21.4.
When Jacorey Williams, who was 2-for-16 (also 12.5 percent) from the arc this season, dropped one at the 11-minute mark, Arkansas led 29-13 and barely a minute later swelled the margin to 34-13 when Young hit his second 3.
"We made some shots," Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson said. "That's something that hasn't been happening for us on a consistent basis."
The torrid marksmanship may have surprised UF players, but it did not surprise Donovan. He figured Anderson had been encouraging his players to shoot in hopes of instilling confidence.
In other words, just because they had not been making them, didn't mean they couldn't.
"I thought we did a really poor job just putting our hands up," Donovan said. "I thought we had some short close-outs. We were inside the 3-point line because, certainly, we wanted to guard their drives, because they're a terrific driving team. But we let them shoot the ball with their feet set and really didn't even have our hands up at all."
At halftime, Florida trailed 43-26 and had as many field goals (7) as turnovers and shot just 29.2 percent through the first 20 minutes.
"In the second half, we wanted to come out and win the first four minutes and try to get some momentum back," Boynton said. "But we were terrible."
The Hogs beat the Gators to a loose ball and turned it into run-out layup for Coty Clarke. Then came a steal and two free throws by Rickey Scott. Then a baseline jumper from Qualls.
Just like that, the lead was 23 again.
And just like that, the team that had dominated its league like no other in college basketball this season looked stunningly vulnerable.
"I say all the time, just because you've done something in the past, just because our defensive numbers have looked like they have -- every game is different," Donovan said. "Clearly, we did not play the level of defense we had played."
Or offense. It was that kind of night.
An Arkansas night.
"Sometimes you need a reality to check to let you know you can be beat," Boynton said. "Better now than later."