Cue yet another upset in this crazy 2012-13 college basketball season. Spurred by brilliant transition offense and a surprisingly strong defensive performance, the Arkansas Razorbacks scored a major upset on Tuesday, defeating the No. 2 Florida Gators, 80-69, before a raucous home crowd.
The underdog Razorbacks were led by an overall team effort that saw eight players score seven or more points. Leading the charge was point guard B.J. Young, who finished with 13 points and five assists while carving Florida's defense throughout the contest.
Much like the final score would indicate, this contest was never remotely close. Arkansas stormed out to an early lead, and Florida was unable to even tie the ballgame after the first minute.
From the opening tip, it seemed like the Razorbacks simply could not miss on Tuesday. They came out knocking down nearly everything in sight, starting the contest on a brilliant 23-8 run early on.
Particularly impressive was the way Arkansas eviscerated the Gators in transition. Running up and down the floor, the Razorbacks continually got buckets in favorable situations, with Florida seemingly disinterested in playing transition defense.
As is prone to happen, most of the Razorbacks' transition buckets came after Florida misses. Billy Donovan's squad could not find an offensive rhythm throughout the contest, but was particularly dreadful early on. Coming into Tuesday night shooting a conference-best 49.6 percent from the field, the Gators scored a meager 15 points in the first 12 minutes of the game.
To add insult to the early-game frustrations, the Gators also lost forward Will Yeguete to injury in the first half. According to GatorZone.com's Twitter feed, he re-aggravated a knee injury and sat out the remainder of the contest.
Florida's struggles only meant more easy buckets in transition for Arkansas. The Razorbacks took a 37-15 lead through those aforementioned 12 minutes, with B.J. Young assisting or scoring on seven straight baskets at one juncture.
While Florida wound up bringing the score within as many as 15 points, the damage was done in the first half. Arkansas walked into the halftime break ahead 43-26 as a shell-shocked Gators team could only hope that the break would cool down the Razorbacks offense.
Well, that did not happen.
Arkansas came out and instantly stretched its lead back to 20-plus points, never once showing any sign of relenting on either end of the floor. Though Florida never gave up completely and continued to battle back, the Razorbacks' first-half run proved to be too much.
They wound up going ahead as many as 27 points midway through the second half before a late run from Florida made the score look closer than it ever was. The Gators finished the game shooting 41.1 percent, including a paltry 10-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Considering the Razorbacks' descent since conference play began, this has to be considered on the biggest upsets of the season thus far. Arkansas had fallen in three of its past five games, all against unranked opponents, and was seemingly headed on a downward spiral.
The Gators, meanwhile, were riding one of the nation's biggest hot streaks. They had won each of their last 10 games by double-digits and were the only remaining undefeated team in SEC play.
It was a nightmare all night long for Donovan's squad and a dream come true for Arkansas. If the Razorbacks wind up improving down the stretch, Tuesday night could be the turning point for their season.
Arkansas basketball's official Twitter feed came through with some perspective on Tuesday night's win for the program:
The last time the Razorbacks defeated a top-5 team was Dec. 30, 2008 against No. 4 Oklahoma. 96-88. #WPS— Razorback Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) February 6, 2013
Henry C.J. Jackson of the Associated Press was impressed that the Razorback fans did not rush the court following the win:
No court rush from Arkansas. Impressive reserve.— Henry C.J. Jackson (@hjacksonAP) February 6, 2013
During the contest, ESPN's college basketball Twitter feed wondered if Arkansas' drubbing of Florida is a sign of things to come in March:
The No. 2 team in the country is losing by 20 to an UNRANKED opponent. Can only imagine what March will be like... #StraightMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) February 6, 2013
I didn't realize Billy Donovan left his varsity team in Gainesville. What's happening inside Bud Walton fails every piece of logic.— Ryan Wood (@AUBlog) February 6, 2013
The contest may have defied most logical assumptions coming into Tuesday night, but Arkansas may still be able to salvage its season.