FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Four Razorbacks scored in double figures Thursday evening at Bud Walton Arena, but it wasn’t enough as the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team lost to Florida, 71-66. Rotnei Clarke led the offensive output with 17 points, including a 5-for-9 performance from behind the three-point line, and Courtney Fortson equaled his career high with 11 assists. Arkansas falls to 8-10 on the season with a 1-3 mark in Southeastern Conference play, while Florida improves to 13-5 and evens its mark in conference play at 2-2.
Courtney Fortson posted his second consecutive double-double effort, scoring 14 points to go along with his assist total. Marshawn Powell and Mike Washington rounded out the Razorback double-digit scorers with 14 and 11 points, respectively. The Gators were led by Erving Walker who poured in a season-high 27 points.
"Obviously, it was a heavily contested game and both teams failed to score in the first half," head coach John Pelphrey said. "(Florida) was tough on the break, but we were able to get the ball inside in the second half. We could not rebound and second-chance points hurt us. That was really the story of the game."
The halftime score, 28-26, was indicative of the high-pressure defense over the opening 20 minutes as well as the back-and-forth nature of the game. Eight ties and four lead changes never gave either team a clear advantage but kept the home crowd on their feet. Arkansas’ scoring came from Powell early as he put down Arkansas’ first four points in the game. Powell would end the half with eight and the Razorbacks got six from Clarke and Glenn Bryant who each buried a pair of three-point baskets. Clarke has now made a three pointer in 27 consecutive games.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things for Arkansas in the first half was that it was able to match the Gators point-for-point without the play of senior preseason All-SEC pick Mike Washington who played just four minutes after running into early foul trouble.
Florida would score the first two baskets of the second half, both three pointers to jump out to an eight-point lead, but Arkansas responded with the next five to make it a one-possession game. Down by five with 14:30 left, Fortson raced down the right side of the lane and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to cut the lead to two and following a Florida miss on the next possession, Washington grabbed an offensive rebound and hit the put back to tie the contest at 36 and bring the crowd to its feet.
The Razorbacks would fall behind late in the contest despite some three-point baskets from Clarke in part because Walker was deadly for the Gators all night long. Florida would build a nine-point lead, 67-58, with 2:20 to play before Fortson brought the Razorbacks to six on a three pointer. Fortson helped make it a four-point game, 67-64, on a fantastic dish to Powell in the paint. As the clock ticked under one minute, Washington, who was playing with four fouls, forced a travel on the Gators’ Alex Tyus to gain possession of the ball with 46.3 to play.
Out of the under-four timeout and trailing by four, the Razorbacks came up empty on their attempt to close the gap when a three-point shot by Powell fell short. The rest of the game was played out at the free-throw line and gave the game its final tally.
The Razorbacks go on the road for their next contest, a Saturday afternoon game with Kentucky Wildcats beginning at 3 p.m. and broadcast on the SEC Network. For more information regarding Razorback men’s basketball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.