Brewer Steals SHow

FAYETTEVILLE -- Never mind his late-game steal, clinching free throw and game-high 24 points.

How about Ronnie Brewer's career-defining 3-point shot with 55.5 seconds left in overtime that gave Arkansas an 83-79 lead en route to an 85-81 win over No. 10 Florida in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday?

Does that put him up there with his All-America father, Ron Brewer, in the pantheon of game-winning Hogs heroes?

"Yeah," Brewer said with a grin, "because we haven't had a victory against a great team like this, especially when we had a must-win game."

The Razorbacks (17-8, 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference) delighted 10,702 hardy fans on an icy day by outrebounding Florida 38-37, getting 16 assists to the Gators' 11 and winning the hustle plays at the end.

Brewer scored 19 points after halftime, including Arkansas' last seven in overtime.

Jonathon  Modica also had a signature game for Arkansas, getting 22 points, 7 rebounds, a game-saving blocked shot and a game-saving steal at the end of regulation.

"It was a great, great college basketball game," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "Both teams had a chance to win. I think Arkansas is as talented as any team in the league. They have more experience, much more size and physicality than we do."

That was a mouthful, considering that Florida is 22-4, 8-4 in the SEC.

But in the first half it did appear that Arkansas could have grabbed a 10-point lead, rather than going into intermission tied 31-31.

"I was shocked and happy that we were tied," Donovan said.

Vincent Hunter had seven of his season-high 11 points in the first half for Arkansas, moving Hogs coach Stan Heath to say, "Hunter had a huge game off the bench. He tends to be in the right place at the right time."

Arkansas senior Eric  Ferguson, playing 23 of the final 25 minutes at guard, contributed 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Florida point guard Taurean Green scored 20 points, but Ferguson made him earn most of them.

And then when Green used a screen to get a half-step on Ferguson with the score tied at 73 in the final seconds of regulation, Modica came over to block his first shot of the season.

"Green had turned the corner and would have had a good look in the lane," Heath said.

Instead, Modica swatted the ball away.

"I was excited to be part of a great defensive play," Modica said, beaming. "I'm not known for defense."

But with 25 seconds left in regulation and Florida up 73-72 with the ball in backcourt, Modica stole the ball from Green, leading to a Darian Townes free throw that tied the game with 20.6 ticks left.

"I felt bad for Taurean," Donovan said. "That was a very, very alert play by Modica."

The Gators had just secured a rebound after a wild melee.

"I was just hoping (Green) didn't see me," Modica said. "I tried to sprint as fast as I could."

Brewer called Modica's blocked shot the "play of the game."

But Modica said he nearly spoiled things by missing a layup with Arkansas up 83-79 with 40 seconds left in overtime.

Al Horford's subsequent layup cut Florida's deficit to 83-81 with 30.7 seconds left, and Brewer's one free throw at 19.7 made it 84-81, before Brewer stole Lee Humphrey's pass with 9.5 seconds to go, dribbled around for five seconds and made a clinching free throw for 85-81.

"We kept fighting and got the ball to bounce our way at the end," Brewer said.

Donovan said he didn't think Arkansas looked tentative or worried down the stretch, despite the Hogs' close losses this season.

"Stan has done a great job," Donovan said. "People don't understand how hard this league is. Arkansas' loss at Ole Miss was not a bad loss. Ole Miss is a very good, well-coached team."

Modica was just happy to finally celebrate a close win.

"I think this team is more than deserving of this victory," he said. "I've gotta give props to everyone on our team. We showed the will to win. It feels good. But our next game (Tuesday against Alabama at home) is just as important."

Brewer said he could tell by the "look in the eyes of three or four guys" that Arkansas would win.

Charles Thomas contributed 10 points, Townes had seven rebounds to match Modica, and Steven Hill set a good tone with his hustle plays.

"Sean (McCurdy) gave us some valuable, valuable minutes, too," Heath said.

Joakim Noah fouled out with 16 points and nine rebounds for Florida, and Corey Brewer scored 11 points, after those two mainstays were limited to 11 total first-half minutes because of foul trouble.

"It's hard to win on the road when it's 42-20 (Arkansas' favor) in free throws shot," Donovan said. "That's a big discrepancy. But Arkansas made only 5 of 12 free throws in the first half and that kept us in it."

The Hogs improved in the second half, with 21 of 30 from the line for 70 percent.

Donovan called it a mark of respect for Florida that some Arkansas fans stormed the court after the game, as Tennessee's fans had done earlier this season.

"Arkansas' fans do a great job in this building," Donovan said. "It's a shame the weather caused a big problem -- this was the smallest crowd I've ever seen here."

Even at that, the crowd grew quite a bit as the game went on.

"I'm thankful for our fans," Heath said. "The ones who came made a difference."

Brewer credited the crowd with providing the Razorbacks the momentum they needed.

At the end, Modica wore a Hog hat and Brewer slapped hands with UA students who were chanting "Ronnie's better" (than Corey Brewer).

"It's been kind of a rough last couple of days," Heath said. "I'm proud of our team for not breaking. We held strong. I was a little worried because Modica was not moving around as well in practice and we were a little leg-heavy. But this win gives us some confidence, and hopefully we can carry that down the stretch."




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