Just when Rotnei Clarke seemed to be taking over for Arkansas, Florida cut him off and sailed away on a 9-0 run en route to a 71-66 SEC victory Thursday before 14,173 in Bud Walton Arena.
Clarke hit three 3-point shots over a two-minute span to help the Razorbacks to a 56-55 lead with 6:46 left. It was also just seconds before Michael Washington, sitting out for five minutes with four fouls, returned to the court.
But that was when the Gators came up with their best run of the game. They didn't allow Clarke another field goal attempt until the final minute.
Florida was at below 30 percent shooting from the field for much of the game, but canned 7 of 10 during the last eight minutes when it scored on almost every possession because of dominant rebounding.
Point guard Ervin Walker led the Gators with 27 points. Backcourt mate Kenny Boynton added 13 points. The UF front court struggled to convert a 42-29 advantage in rebounds, including a 17-5 edge on the offensive end.
Florida (13-5, 2-2) led by as much as 67-58 with 2:54 left when Boynton hit a 15-footer after a drive. Arkansas (8-10, 1-2) had four players in double figures led by Clarke's 17 points.
"We could not rebound, we could not finish off possessions," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said.
"That was the difference. The Alabama game, our last game, we did rebound. We didn't get the same effort in that area tonight.
"We didn't rebound. Florida played better. Credit Florida.
"Walker got down the lane and when he did we had to help. We didn't rebound out of that and they did."
Florida coach Billy Donovan thought his team made it difficult by missing easy shots around the rim.
"There was a point in the game where our front court was 1 of 16," he said. "Those were some easy ones. I know we missed two dunks in the first half. Fortunately, our backcourt did score some and when you do rebound the ball around the rim, you are probably going to get to the line."
The Gators canned 21 of 26 from the line. Arkansas was just 12 of 17 from the line.
Washington, the 6-10 UA senior center, was plagued by foul trouble. He fouled out after just 19 minutes. He left the first half at the 12:17 mark with his second foul and the Hogs holding a 11-8 lead.
Washington's third and fourth fouls came in a 1:01 span in the second half, the fourth at the 11:25 mark when he lost a chase with Boynton for an offensive rebound in the corner. One official said Boynton went out of bounds, giving the ball to Arkansas. He was over ruled on a foul call.
That wasn't so much of a questionable call as the third foul. Washington appeared to have a clean block from the side when Alex Tyus went up in the lane for a short jumper.
Donovan elected to play a halfcourt game, limiting the number of times he called for his fullcourt press.
"We didn't want to give (Courtney) Fortson so many open court situations with Clarke," Donovan said. "That's probably as little as we've pressed, but I was worried about Fortson and Clarke."
Pelphrey said Clarke was involved in a car accident on Wednesday night.
"He was fine," Pelphrey said. "It was my understanding everyone in that deal was alright. He was fine or he wouldn't have played."
Arkansas hits the road Saturday at Kentucky. Tipoff in Lexington is 3 p.m.
Rotnei Clarke sinks a basket against the Gators.
Marshawn Powell fires a jumper.
Photo by Marc F. Henning
Florida 71, Arkansas 66
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