GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida recorded the best shooting percentage this year against Arkansas and the Razorbacks allowed a season-high point total in Saturday’s 82-74 Southeastern Conference loss.
After a strong defensive effort in the first half by both teams, each club shot better in the second half, but Florida hit 77.8 percent of its shots (14-18) and made 20-of-28 free throws to take a big lead and then hold off an Arkansas rally.
UA shot 50 percent in the second half (14-28) and was 15-of-20 at the line, but most of that came after Florida (9-3, 1-0) pushed a three-point margin to 60-43 with 10:38 remaining.
Down 31-26 at the half, despite shooting just 37 percent (10-27), Arkansas opened the second period with two free throws by Charles Thomas to pull within 31-28. A layup by Ronnie Brewer got the Hogs within 39-33 with 16:23 left, but Florida stretched the lead to 43-33 on two Corey Brewer free throws. A layup by Eric Ferguson cut the margin to 45-40 with 14:11 left, but UF went on a 15-3 run over the next four minutes to take its 17-point lead.
The Gators were up by 15, 75-60, with 3:17 left, but Arkansas, which had an eight-game winning streak snapped to fall to 13-2 and 1-1, made a late run. Olu Famutimi, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, nailed a three and Brewer made a dunk to cut the deficit to 77-67 at the 1:43 mark. A Ferguson layup got Arkansas to 77-69, but Lee Humphrey made a free throw and following a missed three by Ferguson, a foul sent Al Horford to the line where he hit two free throws to give the Gators an 80-69 lead with 32 seconds to play. Famutimi hit another three and Thomas made a bucket to get UA within 81-74 before Taurean Green’s free throw with 13 seconds remaining closed the scoring.
Florida, after shooting 45.8 percent in the first half (11-24), finished with a .595 percentage (25-42). The previous high for a UA opponent was 54.2 percent in the 73-67 win over Jacksonville State on Dec. 29. The previous scoring high for an Arkansas opponent was by Tulsa in UA’s 85-73 victory on Nov. 30.
Arkansas finished with a .436 field goal percentage (24-55), it’s second-lowest of the season, and had a season-low eight assists. UF also shot 38 free throws, the most for a UA opponent this year, and made 27.
Brewer led Arkansas with 20 points on seven-of-16 shooting. The SEC leader in steals coming in, he added three to his season total. Ferguson had 16 points on six-of-13 shooting, and four assists and two steals. Famutimi and Thomas, who had eight points, led the team with six rebounds.
David Lee paced Florida with 17 points on six-of-seven shooting, seven rebounds and five assists. Anthony Roberson was just three-of-10 from the field, but eight-of-eight at the line for 15 points. Horford added 12 points, Brewer 11 and Humphrey 10.
The Razorbacks play host to Alabama Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. in a game nationally televised by ESPN.