Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators blow out Arkansas in rebound from rough week

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 13, 2024
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators blow out Arkansas in rebound from rough week

Image Credit: UAA

It was never that close for the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Florida. Just a few minutes into the first half, the Florida Gators pulled away for a thorough and dominant 90-68 win at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida led by as many as 19 points in the first half and only increased that advantage over the latter 20 minutes. In doing so, the Gators ended a three-game losing streak to the Razorbacks that dated back to 2021. UF head coach Todd Golden also got his first win over veteran Eric Musselman.

Let’s take a look at what went right for the Gators at home on Saturday.

It was over when … senior forward Tyrese Samuel charged to the hoop on a fastbreak, completing a one-handed alley-oop dunk to push Florida ahead by 20 points. While there was 16:26 left in the game, it was apparent by this point that Arkansas did not have enough firepower to keep up with the Gators. In fact, Florida increased its lead to 25 points with 63 seconds remaining.

First half focus: The Gators jumped ahead by 19 points midway through the period on the back of a 24-3 run lasting nearly 8 minutes. The Hogs did bounce back with a 12-3 scoring stretch to nearly cut their deficit in half, but UF still entered the locker rooms with a 13-point advantage on the back of 11 points from redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin.

Exceptional effort: Golden said this week that he and Riley Kugel were finally back on the same page, and the sophomore guard’s performance Saturday made that abundantly clear. Kugel scored a team-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting with four rebounds and just one turnover. It was his best overall performance since the season opener on Nov. 6 and his highest-scoring outing since Nov. 29. Kugel entered shooting 27.6% from the field and 11.1% from downtown with as many turnovers as made baskets (16) over the last seven games since the start of December.

Samuel finished with 17 points and 11 boards for a double-double, while Pullin was right there with 15 points and eight assists. In fact, the Gators’ five best players all scored in double figures Saturday.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 27-15 all-time against Arkansas with a 15-3 mark in the O’Dome … the Gators got their first win in SEC play after consecutive losses to start the conference slate … Florida has scored 70+ points in all 16 games this season, its longest streak since 1976-77 (23 games) … the Gators dominated the Hogs inside with edges of 48-31 rebounding and 38-28 scoring … Florida had 17 second-chance points off 15 offensive boards … the Gators outshot the Hogs in all three phases, improving to 8-0 this season when shooting better than 45% from the field and 7-1 when besting an opponent from downtown … Florida lead for 37:05 of the 40-minute game

What it means: The Gators defeated an inferior opponent at home as 7.5-point favorites. As Chris Rock once said about taking care of your kids, that’s what you’re supposed to do. It was a substantial turnaround effort following the dreadful 18-point road loss to Ole Miss earlier in the week, but it wont be known until next week whether the level of play in this victory will be something the team is able to build upon. Really, the most notable item from the game is that Florida hit 15 of 20 free throws (.750), its fifth-best mark of the season. Again, though, that’s what the Gators are supposed to do at the charity stripe.

What’s next? Florida will spend the entire next week on the road visiting a potential top-five Tennessee team on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET live on ESPN before playing at Missouri on Saturday night. The Gators beat the Volunteers last season but have not defeated UT in the state of Tennessee since 2014.

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