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Arkansas Rides Strong First Half To Win Over Florida

In the cold, frigid air outside of Bud Walton Arena, roughly 4,000 Razorback faithful waited their turn to pour into the arena to watch the #24 Razorbacks (15-5) the Florida Gators (10-5) in a midweek matchup on the Hill. This was the first and only matchup against Florida this season, and the Razorbacks were looking to extend their streak of SEC wins to 7 games over the Gators.

Tale of Two Halves

25 minutes into the game, it looked as though the Hogs were going to run away with the game. After a strong first half, fueled mostly by the play of freshman Devonte Davis, the Hogs were in front at the half by ten. Things seemed to be going smooth to start the second half, with the Hogs taking a 15-point lead at the 15-minute mark. They were feeling good and firing on all cylinders, shooting just above 50% from the field. Justin Smith was excellent all night and finished with 15 points on 7-9 shooting. He paired that with six rebounds and four assists. He was solid down in the post, with that hook shot working time and again over Colin Castleton.

But as all Hog fans know, these things rarely ever come easy. A strong push in the second half, fueled by Tyree Appleby, Scottie Lewis, and Colin Castleton, pushed the Gators in front by one with around five minutes left in the game. Eric Musselman called a timeout and regrouped his squad, and a powerful defensive sequence led to the Hogs running away with the game, winning 75-64.

Freshmen Playing a Huge Role

Down the stretch, it was the freshmen on the team that really sparked the Hogs to win. The defense of Jaylin Williams on Colin Castleton and Devo Davis...well...everywhere on the floor forced the Gators into bad shots and turnovers late in the game to seal the deal for the Hogs.

Devo Davis has been an absolute sensation late in the season, and he lived up to the hype tonight. Through the first half, he had 10 points, 3 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He was everywhere tonight, keeping the Florida guards on their toes for the entirety of the game. He finished the game with 18 points, shooting 50% from the field and pairing that with five rebounds and three assists.

I said it in my pregame earlier today, for Florida to keep this competitive tonight, they were going to need Tre Mann to get going. Thanks to Davis, he was almost a non-factor for 30 minutes. Midway through the second half, he had 4 points. He finished the game with nine points on 3-11 shooting, 1-6 from beyond the arc.

It was a quieter night for Moses Moody, but he put his stamp on the game with some clutch free throws in the final minute that put the game out of reach for the Gators. Of course, for Moody, a quieter night still means 14 points. It cannot be overstated how important it is that Moody is on this team. He is going to make an NBA team really happy this time next season.

Gators Come Clawing Back

To their credit, the Gators didn’t quit when the going got tough. Tyree Appleby, the junior out of Jacksonville, Arkansas, did everything he could to keep the Gators in it. He finished the game with 16 points on 6/14 shooting. He looked like the Florida equivalent of Desi Sills and put his body on the line for his team.

In the end, though, In Muss, I Trust. He got his guys regrouped and back together, and they let their defense do the talking. Tate stripped the ball from Appleby in the final minute, and from there, it was a free throw contest to finish the game.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Hogs are now sitting pretty at 16-5 and will travel to College Station to play the Texas A&M Aggies this Saturday. The Aggies are 8-7 on the season and have struggled to see the court with COVID-related issues plaguing them all season. Tip-off is set for 7:30p and will air on the SEC Network.

For Florida, they will fall to 10-6 on the season and will look to regroup against Georgia on Saturday night. Tip-off for that contest is set for 3:30p and will air before the Hogs game on the SEC Network.

For more on the Razorbacks, give me a follow on Twitter, @danielfair88!