No. 25 Florida defeats Arkansas in SEC opener
No. 25 Florida defeats Arkansas in SEC opener
- No. 25 Florida defeats Arkansas in SEC opener
Published On: Fri, Dec 30
Dec 6, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions forward Jaylon Floyd (12) ballet for position during the 2nd half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Florida sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen, a native of Little Rock, Ark., expected to be greeted by boos when he took the floor against Arkansas on Thursday night. He got what he expected, but didn't get rattled and instead reminded Razorback fans what they missed when he elected to sign with the Gators.
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Allen poured in 21 points, and No. 25 Florida looked impressive in dusting off Arkansas 81-72 on the road Thursday in the SEC opener for both teams at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark.
Junior forward Devin Robinson added 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and senior point guard Kasey Hill hit several key shots and handed out six assists for the Gators, who have beaten Arkansas six straight times.
"This is a big deal," Florida coach Mike White told reporters after the win. "It's hard to get a win here in Bud Walton. It was one of our best efforts, if not our total best effort of the year."
Arkansas junior guard Daryl Macon scored 22 points to lead the Razorbacks (11-2), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped and suffered their first home loss this season. Senior forward Moses Kingsley, the preseason SEC player of the year, finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds for his 20th career double-double.
Arkansas opened the second half with a 7-1 run to trim the Gators' lead to 45-42. But Florida quickly answered and established a double-digit lead on a layup by Keith Stone at the 14-minute mark. That scenario played out multiple times in the second half: Every time Arkansas made a run, the Gators had an answer. Allen hit a deep 3-pointer and Kasey Hill followed with a one-handed dunk on the break that had the Florida bench going nuts and pushed the Gators' lead to 70-58 with six minutes to play.
Florida (10-3), in its third season under White, has high expectations after missing the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The Gators were picked second in the SEC, behind only Kentucky, by the media in the preseason and returned to the AP Top 25 this week after a two-year absence. The Gators' three losses have come against Gonzaga, Duke and Florida State.
Arkansas was off to its best 12-game start of coach Mike Anderson's tenure, but was out-executed by Florida on both ends of the court. The Gators got several easy baskets off inbounds plays and forced 13 Razorback turnovers en route to their fifth straight win on their SEC opener.
"Our guys played hard, but in conference play not only do you have to play hard, but you have to play smart," Anderson said. "It was the little things we didn't do that added up."
Arkansas had only one field goal in the final six minutes of the first half, and Florida took advantage. A layup by Canyon Barry put the Gators up 41-31 with 2:48 to play. Allen scored 15 points, and Robinson had 10 points, including a thunderous alley-oop dunk off an inbounds play in the first half, helping Florida take a 44-35 lead into intermission.
Guard Dusty Hannahs, the Razorbacks' leading scorer who had 33 points in a loss to the Gators in last season's SEC tournament, was held to 11 points Thursday. Junior guard Anton Beard added 10 points off the bench for the Razorbacks.
Allen opened the game by hitting his first 3-point shot, only minutes after receiving the unflattering welcome from Arkansas fans. Allen told reporters after the game that he wasn't paying attention to the crowd and tried to stay focused.
"Allen is not a guy that gets easily rattled," White said. "We anticipated the boos."
Allen hit five 3-pointers on the night, drawing praise from the Razorbacks' coach who recruited him.
"That's to be expected," Anderson said of Allen. "When a guy comes back home, and we all know he's a very good player, they're going to play lights out."
NOTES: Florida C John Egbunu, who had missed the previous two games with a hamstring strain, was cleared to play, but did not start. ... The tipoff was pushed back to 9 p.m. ET to allow Arkansas fans to watch the Razorbacks football team play Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, which was broadcast on the scoreboard. ... Arkansas junior G Anton Beard and Florida sophomore G KeVaughn Allen were teammates at North Little Rock High School. Florida won despite hitting only 12 of 21 free throws. ... Florida hosts Ole Miss on Tuesday. ... Arkansas travels to Tennessee on Tuesday.
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