The AP No. 10 Florida Gators were pushed to overtime but still managed to notch a key SEC win over the Arkansas Razorbacks 84-82 in Fayetteville's Bud Walton Arena on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Florida snaps Arkansas’ 23 game home winning streak as the #10 Gators defeat the Razorbacks 84-82 in OT. #UFvsARK— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) January 11, 2014
Scottie Wilbekin made a runner with seconds left on the clock to knot the score at 66, then hit a key three-pointer at the beginning of the extra period to open up an early five-point lead.
It turned out to be too much for the Razorbacks to overcome.
Florida showed grit in dealing with the absence of leading scorer Casey Prather, who was out with a bone bruise on his right knee, per the USA Today's David Jones. However, there was still enough firepower for the Gators to hang with the hosts—and ultimately emerge victorious.
ESPN's Dana O'Neil didn't believe a loss would have a huge impact on how Florida is perceived nationally anyway, since Prather was unable to go:
Time to flip over to the end of Florida-Arkansas. Should Gators lose, won't hurt them terribly. Committee will note no Casey Prather— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) January 11, 2014
Ken Pomeroy felt that considering the circumstances, this would go down as one of the best non-top 50 wins of the season for head coach Billy Donovan's bunch:
No non-top-50 win will be as impressive as Florida winning at Arkansas without Casey Prather.— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) January 11, 2014
Between Prather, Wilbekin's sprained ankle and Patric Young dealing with tendinitis in both knees, per Jones, it was an impressive display from one of the nation's premier programs. Guard Mike Frazier was also dealing with a calf injury.
In spite of those ailments, Wilbekin poured on 18 points, Frazier had 15 and Young was effective before fouling out in overtime.
But the key performer for Florida was sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who pulled down a whopping nine offensive rebounds while totaling 15 boards, three assists, three steals and, a team-high, 22 points.
Junior guard Rashad Madden led all scorers with 23 points for Arkansas, and made five three-pointers. Razorbacks forward Coty Clarke drained three shots from beyond the arc en route to 16 points of his own.
As highlighted before, the loss snapped Arkansas' 23-game home winning streak. ESPN's Jeff Goodman commented on how drastic of a difference the 11-4 Razorbacks have been on their home floor versus the road:
Is there any team in the nation with as much disparity in how it plays at home and on the road as Arkansas? I can't think of any.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 11, 2014
Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg felt that this triumph by the Gators should help absolve any doubts about their mettle and whether or not they can be trusted when March commences:
If you're on the fence on Florida, today's win is a reason to believe in the Gators. Arkansas isn't great, but it won't lose often at home.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) January 11, 2014
Now Florida has improved to 13-2 and proved it can get the job done in a hostile environment even without its best player.
Playing in Gainesville is no slouch either. The Gators have their own home winning streak to protect in their next game, per Scott Carter of GatorZone.com:
#Gators snap Arkansas' 23-game home win streak with 84-82 OT win. Will try to win school-record 25th in row at O'Dome on Tuesday vs. UGA.— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) January 11, 2014
This is a devastating loss for the Razorbacks what with how close they were to pulling off the upset. Redemption potentially awaits on Tuesday, Jan. 14 when the Kentucky Wildcats come to town.