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Hogs: Missed opportunties lead to Gators’ win

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was impressed by No. 10 Florida’s persistence in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

The Gators didn’t have leading scorer Casey Prather, who was out with a knee injury. Two other starters — Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young — had to come off the bench because of nicks and bruises. It wasn’t exactly a recipe for success against and Arkansas team that had won 23 straight games in Bud Walton Arena.

“But they showed why they’re one of the better teams in the country,” he said.

And Anderson’s team showed why it still has a long way to go to get there.

Florida added to Arkansas’ frustrations with an 84-82 overtime win in front of an announced crowd of 18,040. Wilbekin scored 18 points, including the game-tying bucket that forced overtime, while forward Dorian Finney-Smith had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Gators.

The Razorbacks got a career-high 23 points from guard Ky Madden and 16 points and 14 rebounds from Coty Clarke. But the Hogs will remember the missed chances at the end of regulation and in overtime, which dropped Arkansas to 0-2 in SEC play for the first time since 2009.

“We just have got to finish. We didn’t finish,” said Clarke, whose 16 points were a season high. “We didn’t execute and didn’t make shots at the free throw line and didn’t make plays in transition. We didn’t finish and we didn’t execute.”

It was frustrating, considering Clarke gave Arkansas (11-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) a 64-57 lead when he made a jumper with 4:43 left in regulation. It equaled the Razorbacks’ largest advantage in a game that was tied 13 times and had seven lead changes. But it didn’t last because Florida put together a 9-2 run over the final four minutes to force overtime.

Arkansas had plenty of opportunities to close out the game during that stretch, but went 1-for-6 from the floor and couldn’t produce points when it mattered. Forward Alandise Harris also missed the front end of a 1-and-1 bonus free-throw situation with 17 seconds left and Arkansas leading 66-64.

The missed opportunities led to Wilbekin’s bucket in the closing seconds. The senior said he was looking to drive and kick the ball to a shooter on the perimeter, but was able to get off a shot that banked off the glass and in with two seconds left.

“From my angle, (Arkansas forward Bobby) Portis almost blocked it,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m not so sure he would have gotten it clean, but he almost tipped it. I mean, Scottie just barely got it over his arm and made a tough shot.

“But I think in those situations, sometimes you’ve got to have a player make a shot or do something.”

Florida (13-2, 2-0) did and the momentum carried into overtime, when Young made a bucket and Wilbekin knocked down a 3-pointer. Florida’s lead ballooned to as much as eight points — aided by a pair of missed free throws by Portis with the Hogs trailing 72-69 — before Arkansas made one last push.

The Razorbacks had an opening, too, after Wilbekin missed two free throws with Florida leading 82-79 with 21 seconds left. But Arkansas struggled through an ugly and puzzling offensive possession that finished with Harris driving the ball inside in hopes of drawing contact. He missed the shot.

“If we got an attack to the basket, let’s penetrate and let’s kick it out to a shooter,” Anderson said he told his team, which needed a 3-pointer to tie the game. “We had all shooters circled around out there. We just made a bad play. Alandise felt that he could go and get some contact and it didn’t take place. …

“He tried to make a play and it kind of backfired.”

It was Arkansas’ last gasp at preserving its home win streak.

Arkansas shot 37.5 percent (27-of-72) in the loss and went 18-for-27 (66.7 percent) from the free-throw line. Florida went 25-of-59 (42.4 percent) from the floor and made 25-of-34 (73.5 percent) of its free throws.

“We had opportunities whether it be at the free-throw line or turning it over at the wrong time or getting key stops when we had to,” Anderson said. “But it wasn’t because of lack of effort. It’s a team learning how to win against a really good basketball team. Florida is a really good basketball team.”

The Gators became the first team to beat Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena since Syracuse, which recorded a 91-82 victory in November 2012. Florida also has two wins in three years after beating the Razorbacks 98-68 during the 2011-12 season.

Arkansas — which is now 43-5 in Bud Walton Arena under Anderson — is in danger of falling even deeper into a hole with 14th-ranked Kentucky (12-3, 2-0) coming to Fayetteville on Tuesday night after Saturday’s 71-62 victory at Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks missed a chance to grab a resume-building win against short-handed Florida and can’t afford to squander another opportunity.

“It’s hard to lose two games in a row, but we will bounce back,” Madden said. “We will fix it.”

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