Missed Chances: Gators Fall To Arkansas In OT

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas --- With less than 20 seconds remaining and the score tied, 73-73, the Florida Gators had the basketball in the hands of Taurean Green with a chance to put a winning end to an uphill climb Saturday. It is the exact situation the Gators work on every time they practice. Odds are that Green is either going to get the ball to someone with an open shot or he will get fouled. Considering he's an 88 percent free throw shooter, you have to like the odds.

Everything looked good for Green as he worked around an Al Horford screen at the top of the key as the clock ran down, but as he turned the corner a couple of dribbles past the foul line, he picked up his dribble and left his feet only there was no one to pass to and Arkansas guard Eric Ferguson sticking to him like glue. Green tried to throw up a shot but Ferguson somehow got his hand on the ball, the same Eric Ferguson who had exactly ZERO blocked shots this season. Somehow, when Arkansas needed it the most, Ferguson made the defensive play of his career and certainly the most important defensive play of the Arkansas season.

It was that kind of day for Coach Billy Donovan's Gators. Turnovers, critical missed shots and a huge foul deficit made every possession precious and in the end, Arkansas took advantage of its multiple opportunities, particularly at the foul line, to score a huge, 85-81, overtime upset of the seventh-ranked Gators. Florida dropped to 22-4 for the season, 8-4 in the SEC East. Arkansas, which was in desperate need of a win over a ranked team to enhance its chances to make the NCAA Tournament, improved to 17-7 and evened its SEC West record to 6-6.

This was a game won at the foul line. The zebras called 30 fouls on the Gators, 19 on Arkansas. Joakim Noah and Adrian Moss fouled out for the Gators and Green, Corey Brewer and Horford all finished the game with four fouls. The Razorbacks went 26-42 from the foul line and had 30 free combined free throw attempts in the second half and overtime (made 21). Florida, on the other hand, went to the foul line 20 times for the entire game and converted 17.

In the final 6:30 of regulation and the five minutes of overtime, the Gators went to the foul line exactly ZERO times while Arkansas practically lived there. The Razorbacks went 4-8 from the foul line down the stretch and 5-8 in the overtime. Arkansas outscored Florida 21-10 from the foul line in the second half and overtime.

As if the Gators didn't have enough problems, they turned the ball over 19 times, shot 43.5 percent from the field for the game and only 10-28 from the foul line, not exactly the kind of numbers that are conducive to a road win in the SEC against a tough opponent.

Still, the Gators had their chances to win, particularly in the final three minutes of regulation.

When Corey Brewer flew threw the air for a spectacular dunk-finish to a missed Al Horford shot with 2:46 remaining, Florida had a three-point lead at 73-70 but the Gators couldn't protect the lead and they wouldn't score again in regulation.

Arkansas chipped away at the foul line, getting one free throw from Charles Thomas, one from Steven Hill and the free throw that tied the game from Robert Townes with 20.6 remaining. During that stretch, the Gators turned the ball over twice, once on an illegal screen against Horford and the other on a charging foul on Green with 1:34 remaining. Horford also missed jump hook from point blank range with 56.5 left.

The play that probably saved the day for the Razobacks and doomed the Gators came after a 10-second flurry of activity under the Arkansas basket that seemed to end when Horford blocked a shot and Corey Brewer made a spectacular leaping save of the ball as it was going out of bounds. In midair Brewer flipped the ball back to Green who held the ball for a second or two, then began to dribble the ball upcourt.

He never saw Jonathon Modica.

Modica, who went flying out of bounds with Brewer, raced back onto the court and sneaked up behind Green, flicking the ball away and into the hands of Ronnie Brewer. Brewer quickly passed the ball to Townes who was the recipient of a phantom foul call on Noah. Townes hit the second of his two free throws to tie the game at 73.

Florida controlled the game early on, taking a 16-9 lead on the first of Green's five three-pointers with 11:44 to go in the half. Arkansas countered that with a 14-0 run that ended only when Lee Humphrey hit a three with 5:46 left in the half. Florida battled its way back into the game and earned a 31-31 tie at the half when Chris Richard followed up a miss with 1:38 remaining and Green hit a long three with 57 seconds left in the half.

The Razorbacks nailed threes on their first two second half possessions, forcing Florida out of its zone defense. Arkansas edged the lead out to five, 42-37, but Florida answered with a 10-1 run on threes by Green and Corey Brewer, a pair of free throws by Noah and then a steal of the inbounds pass and a layup by Noah with 14:16 remaining in regulation.

Arkansas fought back to take another five-point lead at 53-48 on three free throws by Modica with 12:07 left but Florida battled back once again. Green hit a three but after Vincent Hunter's layup for the Hogs, Horford scored on a dunk follow and Green hit a pair of free throws with 9:48 remaining to tie the score at 55-55.

From that point it was a see-saw battle that saw the lead change hands 10 times before Townes hit his free throw that tied the game at 73-73.

In overtime, Florida drew first blood on a Horford stick back with 4:00 remaining but Arkansas tied it up at 3:35 on a Modica layup. Brewer answered for the Gators at the 3:16 mark but a Modica foul shot and a jumper by Ferguson with 2:18 remaining gave Arkansas a 78-77 lead.

On Florida's next possession, Green missed consecutive three-pointers but Brewer sneaked in for position to stick the second miss back in to give the Gators their final lead of the game at 79-78 with 1:56 remaining.

Ronnie Brewer put Arkansas back ahead with 1:42 left with a pair of free throws after Noah's fifth foul. Florida missed a golden opportunity to take the lead back, however, when Richard's follow of a Corey Brewer miss rolled off the rim and Arkansas rebounded.

The Razorbacks got a three from Ronnie Brewer with 55.3 left in overtime to extend the lead to 83-79 but Humphrey missed a three that would have cut the margin back to one. The Gators got a break, however, when Modica tried to run the floor for a layup instead of backing the ball out to force Florida to foul. Horford blocked his shot and then hit an awkward layup at the other end with 30.7 seconds left to bring Florida back within two.

The Gators fouled Ronnie Brewer once Arkansas got the ball past midcourt and the Arkansas star managed to knock down one of his two free throws with 19.3 seconds left, leaving Florida with a chance for a three that could have sent the game into a second overtime. The Gators tried to work the ball around the perimeter to find an open shooter but Ronnie Brewer streaked into the passing lane to pick up a steal that sealed the win for the Razorbacks.

Green was Florida's leading scorer with 20 points. Noah had 16 points and nine rebounds before he fouled out. Corey Brewer had 11 points while Horford had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

For Arkansas, Ronnie Brewer led the way with 24 points while Modica had 22. Ferguson had 12 and Charles Thomas had 10. Hunter, averaging 1.1 points per game, scored 11 off the bench for the Razorbacks.

The Gators return home Wednesday night to face league-leading Tennessee at the O'Connell Center.

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