FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Davonte Davis led four Arkansas players in double figures with 18 points, propelling the No. 24 Razorbacks over Florida 75-64 on Tuesday night.
Arkansas (17-5, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) entered the Top 25 on Monday for the first time since 2018 and has won seven straight league games.
Florida (10-6, 6-5) turned a 15-point, second-half deficit into a lead with 4:40 left after Tyree Appleby’s lay-up. Davis and Jalen Tate made back-to-back buckets, Justin Smith blocked Anthony Duruji at the rim and Moses Moody made a pair of free throws to push Arkansas back ahead by two possessions with less than 1:30 left.
“The big key was when that thing was 61-62, we did a really good job of locking in defensively, being a little bit more disciplined. Florida can really really score the basketball,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said.
Arkansas is 16-2 with Smith in the lineup and 1-3 without him, a stretch he missed because of an ankle injury in January. He had 15 points, was 7 of 9 from the field and grabbed six rebounds in addition to his key block with time winding down. Musselman said his Indiana transfer is becoming one of the dominant big men in the SEC.
“He came back a little early from the injury because he’s a great teammate,” Musselman said. “The last game was the first game he didn’t have pain and didn’t have much swelling. He’s playing like we thought he would be capable of. He’s a dominant player in the SEC on both sides of the ball.”
Arkansas built its big lead mostly in the first half when it shot 52% to Florida’s 31%. Florida was just 3 of 14 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes and trailed at halftime by 10. It was the Gators’ first game in 13 days after matchups against LSU and Texas A&M were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A stretch of eight straight baskets early in the second half trimmed Arkansas’ lead before the Gators went the final 4:40 without a field goal, dooming their fate. Appleby led the Gators with 16 points.
Moody and Tate scored 14 points apiece.
“We all know in these games, there’s gonna be three runs. We made two, then buckled down in the last four minutes,” Musselman said.
The Razorbacks are nearing a lock for the NCAA Tournament, which would be their first since 2018.
Florida felt more comfortable about its postseason prospects two weeks ago. Postponements have left the Gators winless since Jan. 30, but the quality of wins they do have should provide room for error for now.
Arkansas travels to Texas A&M on Saturday night. The teams’ first scheduled meeting on Feb. 6 was postponed.
Florida will host Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
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