The short-handed #10 Florida Gators traveled to Fayetteville to face a determined Arkansas Razorback team which had won 23 in a row at home. Undaunted despite missing leading scorer Casey Prather, the Gators hung tough in the face of a raucous crowd and came away with a tough 84-82 victory. Behind Dorian Finney-Smith’s double-double and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin’s gutsy free throw shooting down the stretch in overtime, the Gators persevered and moved to 2-0 in the conference and 13-2 overall.
The Gators trailed for much of the game as hot shooting Arkansas maintained a frenzied pace and was deadly from behind the three point arc. The noise was deafening at times and it appeared to affect the Gators who turned the ball over far too often and gave up too many second chance points. The Gators never lost their composure though and after Arkansas missed two free throws that could have put the game away in regulation following a Kasey Hill turnover, Scottie Wilbekin drove into the lane and dropped in a short floater to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In overtime, the Gators jumped out to a quick five point lead on a short jumper by Patric Young and a three pointer by Scottie Wilbekin. From there they hung on for the win behind deadly free throw shooting by Wilbekin. who made 6 of 8 down the stretch.
The Gators were led by Dorian Finney-Smith with 22 points and 15 rebounds and Wilbekin who finished with 18. Michael Frazier hit 4-8 three pointers and finished with 15 points and Patric Young chipped in with 10.
The Razorbacks were paced by Rashad Madden who led all scorers with 23 points. The teams combined to shoot 49 three point shots with the Gators hitting 9-25 (36.0%) and Arkansas hitting 10-24 (41.7%).
With Prather sitting out due to a high ankle sprain and Scottie Wilbekin playing through an ankle injury of his own, the Gators persevered in a game they were actually considered underdogs. Bud Walton Arena is one of the toughest venues in basketball due to the rabid fanbase and the physical makeup of the arena where the fans seemingly sit on top of the court. This was a big win for the Gators and should help their confidence as they progress further down the schedule and most likely into the post-season.
Next up for the Gators is Georgia at home on Tuesday in the O’Connell Center. The Bulldogs are coming off a huge upset victory over #21 Missouri. Game time is 7 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.