The University of Arkansas basketball team took its eight-game winning streak and hopes for breaking into the Top 25 next week to Florida on Saturday and the Gators promptly took a chomp out of both.
David Lee had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and Anthony Roberson added 15 points each as Florida shot 78 percent in the second half en route to downing the visiting Razorbacks 82-74 in an SEC matchup before 11.021 fans at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
Ronnie Brewer had 20 points, Eric Ferguson 16 and Olu Famutimi 13 points and 6 rebounds and Charles Thomas 10 to lead Arkansas (13-2, 1-1) in its first game away from home in eight outings and one that featured two of the league's three highest-scoring teams.
"The game was really decided on defense," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "We have been a team that defended all year long, been a team that forced other teams into turnovers and made them shoot low field goal percentages, but today that didn't happen."
The Razorbacks hit just 33 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half and just 43.6 percent overall, while Florida (9-3, 1-0) shot a sizzling 78 percent in the second half and 59.5 percent for the game.
"I think it was our inability to guard and defend like we have all year long," Heath said. "They got a lot of easy baskets, attacked us against the press and with the ball screening action were really able to turn the corner and that was something we had really worked hard on not allowing to happen."
The 78 percent mark blew Heath away.
"I've never seen anything like that," Heath said. "I don't care how poorly you are playing defense. I am sure they had some easy baskets in there, but had to make some shots. Give Florida credit for that, but the challenge for us is to become the defensive team we should be and we have been and not have our defense not go with us when we go on the road."
Arkansas had 13 turnovers and Florida 12 and outrebounded the Gators 27-25, but couldn't overcome the home team's ability to get open shots and knock them down and their inability to do so.
"I told my team that the big things we didn't do today were two very fundamental things - free throws (19-of-28) and lay-ups," Heath said. "We had a lot of in close shots that we didn't convert, that we didn't finish, that we didn't take strong to the basket. And secondly, especially in the first half, we did a poor job of converting at the free throw line."
Florida playing its conference opener without injured leading scorer Matt Walsh, put the game away with a 12-0 run that turned a five-point lead into a 57-40 advantage with 11:49 left in the game.
"That was the turning point in the game," Heath said. "That's when they really spread the game...Whenever they had opportunities to cash in and we had a break down, they really capitalized and that's just really a sign of some of the veterans they have out there in David Lee and Anthony Roberson. They were key in the game, really controlled the game and just made plays when they needed to."
Al Horford each added 12 points for Florida , Corey Brewer chipped in 11 and Lee Humphrey had 10 points and 5 assists while starting in Walsh's place.
Florida scored the first six points of the game as Arkansas struggled offensively out of the box and missed its first four shots before Steven Hill slammed home a rebound for the Razorbacks' first points at the 17:23 mark.
Lee Humphrey's 3-pointer boosted the Gators ahead 11-4 with 12:39 remaining in the opening half before Ferguson scored more points in 27 seconds than the Razorbacks head in the previous 8 minutes.
Ferguson buried two 3-pointers to start a 14-4 Arkansas run that was capped when he drove for a lay-up that gave his team a 18-15 lead as the clock rolled to 7:42 left.
But Florida responded with seven straight points and actually went back up by that margin before Olu Famutimi's basket at the halftime buzzer cut it to 31-26 as the two teams went to the break.
Arkansas cut that to three right off the bat in the second half, but started slow again offensively in the second half and found itself down 43-33 when Corey Brewer nailed two free throws with 15:48 left in the contest.
Michael Jones swished a 3-pointer and Darian Townes added two free throws to get within 43-38, but a 14-2 spree by the Gators soon put the game out of reach.
That included a string of 12 unanswered points, capped by Al Horford's rebound basket that sent Florida ahead 57-40 with 11:49 remaining.
The Razorbacks did get it to within 78-72 with 32.9 second left on Famutimi's 3-pointer , but could get no closer.
"I'll give our players a lot of credit that they kept fighting all the way through the game and there was a stretch where they had a big lead, but yet we never gave up," Heath said. "That was good for our basketball team to continue to fight, scrap and try to cut into it and give ourselves a chance."
Arkansas returns home to Alabama in a Tuesday night 8:05 game at Bud Walton Arena that will be televised by ESPN.
"I don't want our team to get down or discouraged," Heath said. "It's one game. It was a game we wanted to get , wanted to steal on the road in a hostile environment. We didn't get it, but we have to move on. There is a lot of season in front of us. That was one game and we can get it back, but it's just really important that we move forward to Alabama and try to prepare and play like we can."
Florida 82, Arkansas 74
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