Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA blows its chances at the end
Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) drives past Arkansas center Moses Kingsley (33) during an NCAA college basketball game at Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Florida defeated Arkansas 84-82 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Quinn)
FAYETTEVILLE - Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who kept Arkansas from closing out a big victory in regulation, left the door slightly ajar for the Razorbacks in overtime Saturday.
The 10th-ranked Gators were clinging to a three point lead, thanks in part to Wilbekin making his first six free throws, but two misses by Wilbekin with 21 seconds left gave Arkansas one last chance.
The Razorbacks needed a three-point basket, a quick two-pointer or a foul.
Arkansas didn’t get any of those, and Florida held on to beat the Razorbacks 84-82 and end the Razorbacks’ Walton Arena home winning streak at 23 games before an announced crowd of 18,040.
Florida was in a zone defense leading 82-79, but Ky Madden couldn’t get off a shot. He passed the ball to Alandise Harris, who drove to the basket and missed with seven seconds left.
“I was cool with it,” Wilbekin said of Harris’ two point attempt. “That’s what we wanted him to take. It was challenged. It wasn’t a wide open layup, so we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson chose not to call a timeout after Wilbekin’s missed free throws. He said the Razorbacks already had been told what to do.
“It was a one-possession game,” Anderson said. “If we got an attack to the basket, let’s penetrate and let’s kick it out to a shooter. We had all shooters circled around out there. We just made a bad play.
“Alandise felt that he could go and get some contact and it didn’t take place. He tried to make a play and it kind of backfired.”
Wilbekin - whose 8-foot bank shot with two seconds left in regulation tied it at 66-66 - rebounded Harris’ miss, was fouled and hit two game-clinching free throws that gave the Gators an 84-79 lead with six seconds left.
Michael Qualls hit a meaningless three-pointer for the Razorbacks at the buzzer for the final margin.
It was a rough finish for Harris, a junior forward from Little Rock who had 11 points but missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with 17.1 seconds left in regulation and the Razorbacks ahead 66-64.
Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds, said Harris didn’t lose the game.
Clarke also had a notable miss when he couldn’t finish on a dunk attempt with 3:56 to play after rebounding a three point attempt by Madden. If Clarke - who was alone under the basket - had dunked successfully, the Razorbacks would have led 66-59.
“The game was on us to win,” Clarke said. “[Harris]didn’t make the play, but we also didn’t make the plays and execute and win the game. So it’s not on him, but on us.”
Madden, a 6-6 junior guard, defended Wilbekin on the game-tying shot that sent the game to overtime.
“Wilbekin made a play,” Anderson said. “That’s what good players do. They made plays, and we didn’t make the plays.”
Florida Coach Billy Donovan said he was concerned 6-10 Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis might get at least a hand on Wilbekin’s shot.
“From my angle, Portis almost blocked it,” Donovan said. “I’m not so sure he would have gotten it clean, but heal most tipped it. Scottie just barely got it over his arm and made a tough shot.
“I think in those situations, sometimes you’ve got to have a player make a shot or do something. You’re not just going to run a play and get a clear look.”
The Razorbacks (11-4, 0-2 SEC) took a 64-57 lead with 4:43 left in regulation when Clarke hit 1 of 2 free throws, but Arkansas scored two points the rest of regulation on Madden’s layup at the 1:34 mark that put the Razorbacks ahead 66-64.
“We didn’t finish,” Clarke said. “We let them go to free throw line, we let them make plays.”
Florida senior forward Casey Prather, averaging a team high 17.0 points, didn’t play because of a knee injury. His replacement, sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith, had 22 points, 15 rebounds and 3 steals and 3 assists in 42 minutes.
Wilbekin, who didn’t start after missing two days of practice because of an ankle injury, played 35 minutes off the bench and had 18 points.
Sophomore guard Michael Frazier added 15 points for the Gators (13-2, 2-0) and senior center Patric Young had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought our guys really hung in there when we got down by seven,” Donovan said. “We were able to give ourselves a chance. Scottie made a great shot to send it in overtime and give us some life.”
The Razorbacks shot 1 of 6 from the field in the final 4:01 of regulation.
“We just didn’t finish the deal,” Anderson said. “We had opportunities, whether at the free-throw line or some open shots we didn’t make, but the key going down the stretch, you’ve got to get stops. We didn’t.”
Madden led the Razorbacks with a career-high 23 points and made 5 of 10 three point baskets. Portis added 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Razorbacks hadn’t lost at home since Nov. 30, 2012, when No. 6 Syracuse beat them 91-82. They are 43-5 in at Walton Arena in Anderson’s three seasons.
“They’re a top-five team in their home court,” Young said.
Anderson said the Gators did a good job of staying within striking distance after the Razorbacks beat them 80-69 in Walton Arena last season after jumping out to a 23-point lead in the first half.
“They did what you need to do to get a game on the road,” Anderson said. “They hung around and they hung around. I thought they did a good job of leaning on their veteran guys down the stretch.”
Game sketch RECORDS Arkansas 11-4, 0-2 SEC; Florida 13-2, 2-0 STARS Florida sophomore forward Dorian-Finney Smith (22 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists) and senior guard Scottie Wilbekin (18 points). Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden (23 points, 3 assists) and senior forward Coty Clarke (16 points, 14 rebounds).
TURNING POINT The Gators scored the first five points in overtime to take a 71-66 lead with 3:51 left.
KEY STAT Florida made 25 of 34 free throws compared to 18 of 27 by Arkansas.
UP NEXT Arkansas plays Kentucky at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/12/2014