FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ Jacksonville High accounted for the Florida Gators’ lone lead over Tuesday night over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
And Arkansas’ Jacksonville High accounted for Arkansas’ nationally 24th-ranked Razorbacks regaining the lead permanently with the Hogs eventually winning Tuesday’s SEC game, 75-64.
Tyree Appleby, the Gators’ fourth-year junior via Cleveland State transfer guard and Jacksonville High grad, tallied with 4:40 left among his team-leading 16 points to grasp Florida’s lone lead at 62-61 in a game it only had tied once, 10-10 during the first half.
Arkansas freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis of Jacksonville, wrested it back, 63-62 at 3:28 driving to the rim after a Florida turnover.
The Razorbacks, with Davis’ game-leading 18 points lighting the path supported by forward Justin Smith’s 15 points, six rebounds four assists and five steals, guards Moses Moody and Jalen Tate scoring 14 points each and a nice combo 12 points/14 rebounds and two shot blocks from alternating centers Connor Vanover and Jaylin Williams, took it from there.
“I mean, you just kind of hold your breath when Devo’s got the ball,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said of the go-ahead basket. “He just kind of figures out a way to slither to the rim and get by people and it’s not like I’m telling him to hold up. I don’t know what he’s going to do in there but he’s gonna do something. Defensively he’s a menace. He’s all over the place.”
Of course Davis, who played first at Jacksonville Lighthouse before transferring to Jacksonville High, was asked about matching hometown heroics.
“We’re very close,” Davis said. “We’ve gone to open gyms together, I played against him actually when I went to Jacksonville Lighthouse. Right before the game started, we told each other to just play basketball. We knew everybody was watching and I feel like we put on for the city, for sure.”
Arkansas, AP ranked for the first time this week during second-year coach Musselman’s tenure, advances to 17-5 overall and a SEC second-place 9-4 heading into Saturday night’s SEC game at Texas A&M.
Florida, with only Appleby’s 16 and forward Colin Castleton, 13 points, scoring double figures, falls to 10-6 overall/6-5 in the SEC.
Appleby had big night but hit only 1 of 7 treys. Florida’s most notorious 3-point gunners veteran guards Tre Mann and Noah Locke averaging 14.5 and 11.5 points per game, only hit 1 of 6 and 1 of 5 treys while scoring but nine and five points Tuesday.
Although winning 81-80 and 86-81 in overtime on the road last week at Kentucky and Missouri, Arkansas had been hit 14 of 26 treys from a Kentucky team not known for its 3-point shooting and 13 of 32 treys by Mizzou, many from its role players.
“Yeah, after the last two games 3-point shooting we made a little adjustment,” Musselman said. “We had some defensive drills to try to contest the three. I said the game plan wasn’t on the guys at Missouri or at Kentucky, the 3-point shooting that we gave up. Tonight it was going to be on them if they gave up the three. So we really wanted to run at Noah Locke, he got 1 for 5. Appleby was 1 of 7 and the goal was to hold those three guys under three 3-balls. Tre Mann is a really good player and he was 3 for 11 (total from the field).”
Moody, Tate and Davis all dealt hands voiding Florida’s 3-point tricks.
Smith, the grad transfer from Indiana University starring against Mizzou, again filled the box score with assists.
“He’s playing like a next-level player the last two games on both sides of the basketball,” Musselman said.
Freshman Williams, 6-foot-10, grabbed a game-leading 10 rebounds and stifled 6-11 hot hand Castleton down the stretch.
“He made it difficult for Colin Castleton to catch it in his scoring area,” Musselman said.
Flying from 70-degrees in Gainesville, Florida, to Fayetteville’s record 20-below Tuesday, the Gators not only arrived frozen but rusty.
Their previous three games have been postponed by positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.
The rust showed early.
From Smith scoring the game’s first two points to Smith finding Connor Vanover for a first-half ending dunk, Arkansas controlled the first half it led, 40-30 at intermission.
A 10-10 tie was the best Florida could do in the first half that
the Razorbacks twice led by a peak 13.
Arkansas looked ripe to rout Florida scoring the second half’s first five points.
Appleby and crew battled back. Though the Hogs slipped they never cracked and won by 11.
“When they took the lead we didn’t fold,” Musselman said. “We buckled down the last four minutes.”