Fastbreak: Florida Gators keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive with 68-61 win vs. Arkansas

By Adam Silverstein
March 10, 2016

Florida Gators basketball (19-13) has given itself a chance to potentially play for a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament with a solid 68-61 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-16) in the second round of the 2016 SEC Tournament on Thursday afternoon.

Though eight-seeded Florida is certainly not in the field of 68 after beating nine-seeded Arkansas, it does now have a chance to earn a quality win on Friday that would give the selection committee something to think about. breaks down Thursday’s win with nine quick-hitters.

It was over when: Leading by just one with a minute to play following a goaltending call on redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida looked to be on its way to devastation once again. Instead, junior point guard Kasey Hill scored on a driving reverse layup with 52.5 seconds left, Finney-Smith followed with a couple free throws and sophomore F Devin Robinson slammed home a fastbreak dunk to push the Gators into the second round.

Nearly gave it away: Starting the second half hot by hitting 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc, Florida’s lead jumped as high as 11 points before it went ice cold once again. Over an 11-minute stretch, UF went 2-for-12 with four turnovers and did not score a point for more than six minutes, seeing its lead get cut down to three. The Gators finished 21-for-54 on the game, hitting just 18-of-30 free throws.

First half flop: In one of the worst halves of basketball that Florida played this year — and that’s saying something — UF and Arkansas started a combined 3-of-17 with six points scored in five-plus minutes. The Gators were even more pitiful, beginning 1-of-10 on their own with two points in seven minutes. Once the ball started going into the hoop, though, things looked up for Florida; it finished the by hitting 10 of its last 19 shots to take a six-point lead into the break despite going 11-for-30 from the field and 4-for-8 from the charity stripe.

One-man gang: Guard Dusty Hannahs basically did everything for Arkansas, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting. Razorbacks not named Hannah made fewer baskets (10) and scored fewer points (28) on the afternoon.

Playing through the pain: Redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu was questionable for the Gators after tearing a ligament in his dominant right thumb during practice. He was unable to catch the ball well but still finished 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-3 from the charity stripe with eight points and nine boards. Definitely a tremendous effort from the big man.

Tale of two point guards: Hill was tremendous on Thursday, posting a team-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting with a team-best five assists, though he did commit three turnovers. It was quite the opposite for sophomore PG Chris Chiozza, who was 2-for-9, turned the ball over four times and committed three fouls. Neither has played well as of late, but Hill’s aggressiveness and ability to slash his way to the hoop made the difference for UF.

Stars still lacking: Though Finney-Smith made some important free throws late (he went 5-of-7 at the line) and hit two big threes early in the second half, he was inefficient and sloppy for most of the game, finishing 3-for-11 with 13 points, nine boards and three assists. Similarly, Allen connected on a big trey early in the second half but was 3-of-10 from the field for 11 points with five boards and three dimes. UF must see two of its best players, well, be its best players if it has any chance of winning its next game.

Everything else: Robinson finished with eight points and seven boards … Arkansas shot even worse than Florida, hitting 22-of-61 field goals … the Razorbacks also outrebounded the Gators 45-40 … Florida got 28 big points off the bench (18 from Hill) and had 14 assists on 21 baskets … shooting 40 percent from three was the Gators’ second-best mark since Jan. 30

What it means / up next: Florida will move on to the third round of the SEC Tournament, where the eight-seed Gators will face the one-seed Texas A&M Aggies. A victory for UF would give it a legitimate shot at earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament, while a loss would likely push it into the NIT for the first time since 2009. Florida played well but fell 71-68 at Texas A&M back on Jan. 12 before winning five of its next six games.

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