Florida Gators 84, Arkansas Razorbacks 82: Trouble

Wesley Hitt

11-4, 0-2

Let's get to it.

There will be plenty of opining about the play with 21 seconds left in overtime when Arkansas got the ball back down by just three.

Rashad Madden said they were going to take whatever Florida gave them, and Anderson said after the game the plan was to drive and kick it to a shooter, explaining shooters were sprinkled around the perimeter, but it was well-guarded and Alandise Harris couldn't get it to them. Anderson said he didn't think there was a need to call timeout because he thought it was set up well, but, "we just made a bad play."

That's all fine and well, but it's still a bad look, and one that, rightly or wrongly, will leave fans questioning his in-game strategy. The only good news is that it's a short week until the next game with Kentucky coming in on Tuesday. The bad news is that it's Kentucky, and Arkansas gets a pair of road games following the Super Tuesday contest. An 0-5 SEC start is staring the Hogs in the face if they can't figure out a way to upset the Wildcats or beat a non-Auburn SEC team on the road for the first time since 2011. And that won't be comfortable for anybody.

It's also fair to question the lineup that was on the floor late in regulation. Bobby Portis was on the bench despite being a 76.1% free throw shooter, and neither was Anthlon Bell,  who's made ten-of-twelve free throws this season, including two today. Mardracus Wade didn't play at all even though he's a 76.5% free throw shooter, of course, you can defend not bringing in a guy cold to make clutch shots. But Harris, who is a 67% shooter, was the one in the game and got fouled and missed the shot.

Harris' free throw will get most of the attention, but the team as a whole didn't shoot them that well. Portis missed a pair in overtime that would have cut the Florida lead to one. Fred Gulley came into the game shooting 71.4% from the line but went 1-for-4.

It wasn't all bad for Arkansas. Madden played what may be his best game as a Razorback, scoring 23 points, five rebounds and three assists. Coty Clarke kept Arkansas alive in the first half, scoring 13 points, and finished with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds - but he did miss a point-blank wide-open layup with about four minutes left that proved to be huge. Portis recovered from an ugly first half to score 12 in the second, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.

It's easy to find plenty of opportunities Arkansas had to win the game. The Hogs took the lead with just under eight minutes left and pushed it to seven points with 4:43 remaining, but only scored two more points the rest of the way. That allowed Florida to make their run, and after Harris missed the free throw that would have put Arkansas up three with a chance to go up four, Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who almost didn't play today, was able to drive and hit a floater off the glass with two seconds left. The Gators took a quick five-point lead in halftime and that's as close as the Razorbacks would get.

It is worth noting Florida's leading scorer Casey Prather did not play due to injury. His replacement, Dorian Finney-Smith, had no issues filling in, scoring a career-high 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

But the end result is a hugely disappointing game for Arkansas. Coming off a disastrous start to SEC play at Texas A&M on Wednesday, the Razorbacks were hoping to get on track at home, but it didn't work out. The poor shooting that hurt the Hogs in College Station continued for some, with the biggest concern being Michael Qualls. Since turning the calendar over to 2014, Qualls is a combined 6-for-33 from the field against UTSA, A&M, and Florida. He was 2-for-10 today, but finished with 10 points thanks to a great effort at getting to the free throw line in the first half. It's an issue Arkansas needs to get through as quickly as possible, especially because Qualls tends to lead the team in minutes, which he did today with 34 (Portis was the only other player to play 30+ minutes).

There's been a lot of discussion about Arkansas' lack of a true point guard, but I think the bigger issue is the lack of production from the 2-guard spot opposite Madden. Anthlon Bell, Kikko Haydar, and Gulley combined for six points on 1-for-8 shooting in 45 minutes. That may not be an issue that can be fixed this season unless Bell's shooting becomes more consistent.

All in all, the Razorbacks now find themselves in a hole, and as Anderson said after the game, "It'll be interesting to see how we respond."

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