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Arkansas 80, Florida 69: Gators lose spotless SEC record in nightmare rout

For the second straight year in Fayetteville, one team in the Arkansas-Florida matchup ran the other out of the building. It was the Razorbacks' turn this year.

Wesley Hitt

It seemed like everything fell for Arkansas and nothing fell for Florida in Fayetteville tonight. That's the takeaway from Florida's 80-69 loss to Arkansas, its first in 2013 and first to an SEC team this season: It seemed like gravity was reversed.

How else to explain Florida's opponent, and not Florida, zipping out to a 6-0 lead, and a 9-2 lead, and a 14-5 lead, and a 23-8 lead, and a 36-13 lead? How else to explain Arkansas making 15 of its first 20 shots? How else to explain a team that had made less than a quarter of its threes in SEC play making more than 44 percent of them against Florida?

There are answers to these questions — Arkansas making 15 of its first 20 shots answers the first; incredible shooting on some tough and deep jumpers explains the second two — and answers that help explain those answers, like how Will Yeguete's absence (he left after re-aggravating a right knee injury) forced Patric Young and Erik Murphy to do more and for longer on defense and shifted Casey Prather to the uncomfortable position of guarding frontcourt players, and how Scottie Wilbekin's fantastic stretch of play ended with a woeful 5-for-15 night from the field with three turnovers, reminiscent of his predecessor at point guard, and how Florida finally had to deal with cold nights from most of its shooters and a game without a bunch of gift turnovers (Arkansas only committed eight).

None of those answers feel good right now, and neither does the knowledge that Florida's margin for error in SEC play was small if it wanted to earn a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Yeguete's status being in doubt feels like another gut punch, given how Florida has already dealt with being without him late in the season.

But here's a good thing: Those Gators, on their flight back from Arkansas, are going to feel just as bad.

Scottie's going to feel bad about sloppy play against Arkansas' pressure in the full and half courts. Kenny and Murph are going to feel bad about missing five threes each. Mike Rosario's going to feel bad about not keeping Florida in this one on a night when he was the Gators' best player. Pat's going to feel bad about getting himself in foul trouble early and hamstringing his team on both ends of the floor.

And, well, I hope it does feel bad for them, because my brain knows that everything suggests this effort — and not the eight ones the Gators put together in SEC play prior to it — is the outlier, the result that Florida will less reliably produce. My brain knows that Florida's a veteran team that didn't quit tonight, despite having every reason to just want to leave and go home as luck spat on them again and again. My brain knows that those Gators know how to play basketball, and failed to weather a fantastic night of shooting by the other side far more than they failed to compete.

My brain knows that Florida remains one of the nation's best teams no matter how badly blacked its eye was on this night. My brain knows that teams shooting this well against Florida and feeding off a voracious crowd at home is almost assuredly not going to happen in the NCAA Tournament.

My brain knows all that, even if my heart and every Gator's heart aches tonight. My brain knows that I believe that "In all kinds of weather, we all stick together" is even more potent in bad weather. And, sure, my heart will probably want Florida to beat a bad Mississippi State team by 200 on Saturday in Gainesville, though my brain knows that's not likely.

But my brain knows it's possible, even likely, that Florida will return to form sooner rather than later. And my brain can convince my heart to have faith.