This time, Florida found a way to finish.
After blowing a 14-point lead in the second half to South Carolina in their SEC opener, the Gators nearly let a 15-point second half lead slip away against Arkansas. But behind 18 points from senior guard KeVaughn Allen, Florida held on for a 57-51 win against the Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena.
Sophomore guard Mason Jones nearly led Arkansas back, scoring a career-high 30 points while making big shots down the stretch. But Allen was able to hit four straight free throws in the final 12 seconds to help the Gators seal the win.
With the Gators up 51-36 with 6:11 remaining after a 3-pointer from freshman guard Noah Locke, Arkansas responded with a furious rally late, going on a 15-2 run. Jones cut UF’s lead to 53-49 with a 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining, then made a pair of free throws with 1:01 left to pull the Razorbacks within 53-51.
Off a Florida miss, Arkansas had a chance to tie to the score or take the lead, but Jones missed an off-balance runner in the lane, and in a scrum, the Gators were able to come up with the loose ball. Allen, an 81 percent free throw shooter, was fouled. An Arkansas native, Allen calmly made both free throws to put Florida up 55-51.
Locke added 10 points for the Gators (9-5, 1-1). Sophomore center Daniel Gafford had 9 points and 12 rebounds for Arkansas (10-4, 1-1) while dealing with foul trouble throughout the game.
Both teams struggled from the perimeter, combining to miss their first 21 3-point attempts. The Gators, though, managed to pull away late in the first half.
After a Jones 3-pointer cut UF’s lead to 18-17, the Gators closed the half with a 15-5 run. Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard scored six straight UF points on a three-point play and 3-pointer to put Florida up 26-18. Allen scored 11 first-half points, including four straight free throws in the final 2:04.
Florida shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half, but held Arkansas to 28 percent to take a 33-22 lead into halftime.
—Field Level Media