Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators fight back but fall short at No. 24 Arkansas

By Jake Winderman
February 16, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators fight back but fall short at No. 24 Arkansas

Image Credit: @GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball (10-6, 6-5 SEC) was unable to complete a near-exceptional second half comeback, falling 75-64 to the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Tuesday night. Florida’s first game back after a two-week hiatus due to COVID-19 issues saw the team start sluggish but come alive in the second period.

The victory marked the Razorbacks’ first win over the Gators at Bud Walton Arena since 2013 and gave Florida head coach Mike White just his second loss against Arkansas since taking over the program (8-2).

What went down on Tuesday night? Find out below in our Fastbreak takeaways.

It was over when … The Gators took their first lead of the game with 4:40 to play, storming back from a 15-point deficit early in the second half. However, due to a combination of missed shots, fouls and turnovers, Florida was outscored 14-2 over the remainder of the game. UF missed its final six shots of the game and went scoreless over the final 1:27, committing three turnovers during that time despite only trailing by three points.

First half focus: Florida’s offense in the first 20 minutes was reminiscent of a team that hadn’t played a game in 13 days. The Gators shot 11 of 36 (31%) from the field and 3 of 14 (21%) from long range. At one point during the first frame, Florida missed 15 of 16 shot attempts and was unable to make a basket for nearly 7 minutes.

The Gators turned their shooting around in the second half but finished 37.7% from the field and 19.0% from three. Florida is now 0-6 this season when shooting worse than 43% (10-0 otherwise) and 0-6 when scoring fewer than 72 points (10-0 otherwise).

Exceptional efforts: Redshirt junior point guard Tyree Appleby was the major catalyst in Florida’s second half comeback. The Arkansas native finished with a team-high 16 points with nine in the final frame. Appleby was at his best when he looked to score on aggressive drives to the rack, but his seven turnovers — four of which came in the final 10 minutes — ended up being a decisive factor in Florida’s fifth conference loss of the season. The Gators wouldn’t have been in the game in the second half without Appleby, but his carelessness with the ball at certain points caused White plenty of headaches.

Like Appleby, junior center Colin Castleton did most of his damage in the second half. Castleton finished with 13 points, eight in the final frame, with six rebounds, two steals and two blocks in just 23 minutes. The Michigan transfer played just 7 minutes in the first half while dealing with conditioning-related issues.

Odds and ends: The Gators scored fewer than 30 points in the first half for the third time this season and are now 0-3 when doing so … UF failed to hit at least five triples for just the second time this season and first time since the team’s 76-69 victory over Army to open the 2020-21 season … sophomore PG Tre Mann failed to score in double-digits for just the fourth time this season

What it means: Florida’s second-half effort was valiant after a real stinker of a performance in the first 20 minutes. When the Razorbacks went up 15 points early in the second half, it looked like it was going to be a 20-point loss kind of night. Instead, Florida shook off the first-half rust and battled back with a 24-15 run. The Gators’ press and ability to get into the Hogs’ passing lanes fueled the comeback and gave Florida plenty of momentum to work with late in the game.

While the effort was commendable, it doesn’t make up for the late-game mistakes. At that point, they could no longer be attributed to rust. UF took off-balance shot after off-balance shot in the final 4:40 minutes and got away from the offense that had gotten them back into the game.

Losing by 11 points to the No. 24 team in the country at one of the toughest road environments in college basketball after a 13-day COVID-19 layoff isn’t the worst result, but the Gators had more than enough momentum to close out the game strong and improve to 4-2 in Quadrant I opportunities. Tuesday night’s game was a major opportunity to potentially move up a seedline come NCAA Tournament time, and it was unsettlingly squandered late in the game when the Gators needed to put forth their best effort.

What’s next? Florida will get three days off before taking on Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida won the first meeting between these two teams 92-84 in Athens, Georgia. UGA was also in action on Tuesday night, beating Missouri 80-70. The Gators have played more games against the Bulldogs than any other team in program history. Since 2011, Florida is 14-5 against Georgia. 

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