Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorbacks welcome No. 1 team to Barnhill
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnastics team proved it has the talent to push past the 197-point mark last week.
The Razorbacks had to count a fall on the second rotation against LSU but rebounded from the uneven bars errors to post a 196.625, nearly three-tenths of a point higher than their season debut at LSU the week before.
WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville (1,200 fans allowed)
RECORDS Florida 2-0 SEC; Arkansas 0-2
RANKINGS Florida is No. 1; Arkansas is No. 8
SERIES Florida leads 45-3
TV SEC Network-Plus
COACHES Jenny Rowland (107-23 in sixth year at Florida); Jordyn Wieber (4-10 in second year at Arkansas)
EVENTS Vault: No. 1 Florida 49.4, No. 12 Arkansas 49.038; Uneven bars: No. 11 Florida 49.138, No. 21 Arkansas 48.93; Balance beam: No. 1 Florida 49.488, No. 5 Arkansas 49.2; Floor exercise: No. 5 Florida 49.35, No. 8 Arkansas 49.3.
No. 8 Arkansas (0-2) will need every tenth of a point it can wrangle at 7 tonight when it hosts No. 1 Florida (2-0) at Barnhill Arena.
Handstands, dismounts, every technically sound element they can muster will be important against the Gators, who have scored 197.25 or better in both their wins over Auburn and Georgia.
Second-year Coach Jordyn Wieber said she knows the Razorbacks can perform better than last week.
“My message to the team has just been let’s be a better team than we were last weekend and then each week we get a little bit better,” Wieber said. “That’s the road this team is on and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Though the Razorbacks fell behind by more than seven-tenths of a point at the halfway mark last week, they finished strong with a 49.325 on the balance beam and a 49.5 on the floor exercise.
The beam score came after Gillian Rutz came off the apparatus in the second position. SEC co-specialist of the week Maggie O’Hara (9.925), Sarah Shaffer (9.9), Sophia Carter (9.9) and Kennedy Hambrick (9.825) made up for it with big performances.
“I thought it was great,” Wieber said. “The hit routines were scoring really high. They looked confident and solid, even though the pressure was on with our second person up falling.”
The Razorbacks racked up on the floor, with Carter leading the way at 9.925 in the anchor position, and Shaffer, Hambrick, Bailey Lovett and Abby Johnston all scoring 9.875 or higher.
Florida scored 197.25 at home against Georgia in a home meet last week, and that was with the Gators not at their best.
Florida all-around ace Trinity Thomas had her streak of eight consecutive SEC gymnast of the week awards snapped after she fell off the beam for the first time in 22 meets in the win. Thomas won the vault and uneven bars last week to push her total to 60 career titles.
The Gators have dominated the series against Arkansas, winning 45 of 48 meetings.
Arkansas junior Amanda Elswick is questionable after missing last week with an ankle sprain. All-around Kiara Gianfagna, sidelined with a foot injury in the opener, might be able to add more on her plate after returning on the uneven bars last week.
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