Fayetteville (Ar.) — After back-to-back losses, Arkansas has almost no wiggle room for mistakes the rest of the season. At a bare minimum, the Hogs need to win the rest of their home games to be securely in the NCAA tournament without having to make a run in the SEC tournament. A win against a Colin Castleton-less Florida is as much of a must-win as it gets.
The opening two minutes were about as messy as one could make a game. Both teams combined for 4 turnovers and 3 steals, but only two shots (both misses). The first points came in the 17thminute with a layup by Makhi Mitchell.
After the first media timeout, Florida woke up a bit and went on a small, 9-2 run to gain a four-point lead. Florida’s next 6 points came not from the field, but from the charity stripe after drawing fouls on Makhel Mitchell, Devo Davis, and Jalen Graham, respectively. Graham—almost single-handedly—kept the Gators from growing the lead further, scoring 6 of the next 8 points.
Starting at the 8:53 mark, the Hogs began to take control of the game with an and-1 layup by Nick Smith Jr. that sparked a 14-2 run. Arkansas led by 7 following the run and managed to hold onto 6 of those points going into halftime. Arkansas leads 37-31.
The Hogs have struggled the past two games coming out of the locker room from halftime, but today they came out on fire. Sparked by a 3-pointer from Jordan Walsh—the first of the night for the Hogs—Arkansas produced a 17-2 run and push their lead to 54-33.
For the next few minutes, the game became the Jalen Graham show. Graham made 4 of the next 5 baskets and made the Gators’ frontcourt look silly doing it. One bucket in particular Graham was ISO with Florida’s Riley Kugel in the post. Graham spun towards the baseline into the lane and slammed it home.
GRAHAM. SLAM. pic.twitter.com/rV0HbP813a— Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) February 18, 2023
Arkansas was able to maintain its lead for the rest of the gameby putting on a clinic on how to attack the paint, scoring the last 6 of 11 field goals from inside the lane. With 45 seconds left, Coach Musselman substituted everyone on the floor with bench players to finish out the absolutely dominant performance. Arkansas wins 84-65.
Arkansas was extremely effective on defense. The Hogs allowed Florida to score on 22-59 of their attempts (37%) and 4-21 from 3-point range (19%). Arkansas was dominant in the post, winning the rebound battle 40-25. Arkansas only forced 12 turnovers in the game, but 9 of those came in the second half. Eight of those were steals and all but 2 came in the second half.
Offensively, Arkansas was just as effective. The Razorbacks did an outstanding job of attacking Florida’s newfound weakness. Without Colin Castleton, the Gators were abysmal in the post. According to HogStats.com via Twitter, Arkansas scored 52 points in the paint. That is the most points scored in the paint by the Razorbacks in a regulation-length SEC game in nearly a decade.
.@RazorbackMBB had 52 points in the paint vs. Florida today, its most in an SEC game in the Musselman era. Most since 54 in an OT loss to LSU on 1/12/2019.— HogStats.com (@HogStats) February 18, 2023
52 = most by #Arkansas in a regulation-length SEC game since at least 2013-14.
Arkansas knocked down 34-59 (57%) from the field but only 2-10 (20%) from deep. The Hogs were much better from the free-throw line, knocking down 82% of their attempts. With the driving lane so open, Arkansas recorded very few assists with 8. Arkansas turned the ball over 13 times but 7 of those came in the first half.
With no surprise, Jalen Graham scored a career-high 26 points to lead all players on the court. Ricky Council IV was second on the team with 15 points. Both Council and Graham led the team in scoring while coming off the bench. Three other players also scored in the double digits; Anthony Black scored 14 and, Nick Smith Jr. and Makhi Mitchell each had 10. Completing a double-double, Mitchell recorded 10 rebounds. Graham and Council followed with 7 a piece.
The Hogs look to take care of business next Tuesday against the University of Georgia. The Bulldogs have struggled all year, but they knocked off Kentucky at home just a week ago. Arkansas will meet Georgia in Bud Walton arena on February 21st at 8:00 pm CST.