NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Arkansas' six-game winning streak came to end here Thursday night before 17,777 fans, but it didn't end without a fight.
Also for once - lately that is - an SEC Tournament loss didn't signal the end of the season for the Razorbacks (22-9).
Instead after falling to No. 16 Florida 74-71 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, the University of Arkansas will go home and wait to find out on Sunday where its NCAA Tournament seed and destination - the program's first such trip in five years - will be.
"It's all about winning, it's all about team play, it's all about playing with your heart out there on the court and the thing I am really proud about our guys tonight was we didn't necessarily have our A game," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "Part of that may have been Florida. We shot poor and their defense was good. But we did defend as well as we have been defending."
Lee Humphrey and had 16 of his career-high 25 points in the opening half and he and backcourt mate Taurean Green - who added 20 points - both hit 5 3-pointers to lead the Gators (25-6) to the win.
"Give Arkansas credit," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "We had an opportunity tio win by more than three points, but they continued to drive the ball to the basket and made things happen and made it too close there at the end."
Al Horford added 11 points and 8 rebounds for the Gators, who hit 5 of their first 6 3-pointers, 6 of their first 8 and ended up making 10-of-15 from beyond the arc.
They advance to a semifinal round matchup Saturday at 2:15 with league champ LSU.
Green, who also had six rebounds and five assists, was 5-for-5 on his 3-pointers and Tennessee native Humphrey - the SEC's leading 3-point shooter - hit 5-of-9 from deep on the night.
"It's always fun to come back home or fairly close to home and play well," Humphrey said. "I had a lot of people from Maryville here at the game and I think my teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and fortunately I knocked down some shots."
The Razorbacks outscored the Gators 36-26 in the paint and forced 17 turnovers, but could not stop the higher seeded team from outside.
Ronnie Brewer had 18 points, Charles Thomas 17 and Jonathon Modica 13 to lead Arkansas, who had beaten Florida 85-81 in overtime in Fayetteville in the regular season when an injured Humphrey was a non-factor.
"The effort was certainly there and the heart was there, but not enough defense and we just didn't shoot the ball well enough," Heath said.
Arkansas fell down by 12 in the first half, rallied to within two points and then fell back down to as many as 13 in the second half.
The Razorbacks - whose largest loss to an SEC team this season had been by five points to LSU - got to within 56-51 on Thomas' free throw with 6:10 remaining, but the Gators scored the next six points to seeming begin a cruise to the finish line.
However, Arkansas - down 13 with just under 3 minutes left and 10 with just over a minute left - actually got it to within three when Thomas drained a 3-pointer left to cut it to 72-69 with 13 seconds left.
"We still thought we were going to win even with not playing nearly as well as we could," Thomas said.
Humphrey added a pair of free throws at the 9.4 mark and Vincent Hunter scored with less than a second left to cap the scoring.
"I thought we did a great job defensively tonight defending and rebounding, but Arkansas jumped up and scored 25 points on fast break points," Donovan said. "I guarantee you the majority of those fast break points were off our carelessness throwing the ball away."
Arkansas outscored Florida 15-0 in bench points, but couldn't overcome a 36-27 rebound deficit.
The Razorbacks lead their overall series with the Gators 9-8 and the teams are now 1-1 in SEC Tournament matchups.
"Now we'll just put this behind us," Heath noted. "We've got some games still ahead of us and we'll be ready."
Florida 74, Arkansas 71
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