Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators waste opportunity falling to No. 18 Arkansas

By Adam Silverstein
February 22, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators waste opportunity falling to No. 18 Arkansas
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Everything wrong with Florida Gators basketball these days was on full display Tuesday night as the program struggled to win its second consecutive game against an AP Top 25 opponent, falling 82-74 to the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators’ loss also snapped a 14-game home winning streak against the Hogs that dated back to 1995.

Florida struggled to do much of anything over the game’s final 9 minutes as senior forward Colin Castleton scored 13 of the team’s final 17 points. Castleton posted a career-high 29 points in large part because his teammates were unable to find the bottom of the basket for a full quarter of the game. It just so happened to come during crunch time when he needed them the most.

Defensive lapses (Arkansas scored on 13 of its final 15 possessions), poor shot selection and a lack of bench help all doomed the Gators in the end as they again moved to the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble just days after earning a win over the highest-ranked opponent in the history of the O’Dome.

So what went wrong Tuesday night as Florida again cost itself a prime opportunity to improve its resume and postseason possibilities? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … the Gators failed to make a basket for a 6-minute span late in the game, going 0 of 6 from the floor as the Razorbacks turned a deficit into a six-point advantage they never gave up. Florida had used a 10-1 run to retake the lead early in the second half before Castleton scored five straight points to boost the Gators’ advantage to six with 8 minutes remaining. It was their largest lead since 15:55 in the first half. However, the Hogs answered immediately with a 12-2 run to take a four-point lead with 4 minutes to play, and they never looked back.

No one other than Castleton scored a point for a 6-minute stretch in the second half as he posted nine with five coming from the line. In fact, no Florida player other than Castleton made a field goal for the final 9:04 of the game with the big man going 4 for 5 while his teammates went 0 for 8. It was a total collapse by Florida, which should have been battling Arkansas until the buzzer but was instead toothless defensively and fully reliant on its star player for offense.

First half focus: Florida made its first four triples to take an early 12-6 lead, but its proficiency from beyond the arc expectedly faded as Arkansas used a 14-2 run to take the advantage midway through the period. The teams traded blows from there, but while the Gators scored the final four points of the opening 20 minutes, they again trailed at halftime as they have so often this season.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton’s career-high 29 points came on 10 of 16 shooting as he made 9 of 10 free throws and added six rebounds. Senior point guard Tyree Appleby had his back with 19 points, but after making his first two 3-pointers to open the game, Appleby only connected on 1 of 7 over the remaining 38:43. Castleton and Appleby combined for 65% of UF’s points on Tuesday and have scored 68% of the team’s points over the last two games (93 of 137). That is simply not sustainable.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 26-13 all-time against Arkansas with a 14-3 mark in the O’Dome … the Gators snapped a 14-game home winning streak against the Hogs that dated back to 1995 … UF is now 8-3 against Arky under White (4-1 at home) … Florida fell to 2-6 against AP Top 25 opponents this season, 20-36 all-time under White … the Gators have not defeated ranked SEC opponents in consecutive games since 2010 … UF is now 0-3 this season and 8-21 under White when allowing 80+ points while falling to 12-4 this season when scoring 70+

What it means: Nothing good, that’s for sure. The Gators are now 2-8 against Quadrant 1 teams and dropped a game they needed down the stretch of the season. With two home contests against ranked opponents across the final two weeks, the belief is that Florida needed to win one of two — while winning out on the road at Georgia and Vanderbilt — to ensure itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament. UF now needs to win its final three games of the regular season to accomplish that unless it goes on a substantial run in the forthcoming SEC Tournament. Its bubble is on the verge of popping.

What’s next? Florida will hit the road to face rival Georgia on Saturday at noon ET in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN2. The Gators beat the Bulldogs 72-63 back on Feb. 9 in the O’Dome and have won five straight games against their longtime foes.

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