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Florida 87, Arkansas 83: Gators hold off red-hot Razorbacks late at the line

Florida allowed the SEC's best team from beyond the arc to get hot. But the Gators held off Arkansas anyway.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

It could've been a loss, the way Arkansas was raining threes. The Razorbacks kept plugging away at Florida's lead with bomb after bomb late in the second half, cutting the Gators' advantage all the way down to two points with 6.5 seconds remaining.

And then KeVaughn Allen, a freshman from Little Rock who memorably chose to stick with Florida over his in-state Hogs, hit two free throws to give the Gators a four-point lead they would keep for an 87-83 victory.

Allen's makes give him placement in the lede, but he didn't lead the Gators on this night, making just two of six shots on the way to his 10 points. Every Florida starter but Kevarrius Hayes — making a spot start for John Egbunu, who didn't enter the game until late in the first half for disciplinary reasons — finished in double figures, with Dorian Finney-Smith's 22 points leading the way.

Chris Chiozza's career-high 17 points and eight assists may have been the most important, though: Chiozza hit stepback jumpers on back-to-back possessions in the second half, then created one of the finest alley-oops you'll ever see with a killer behind-the-back dribble to split two defenders shortly afterward.

With Egbunu adding 14 points off the bench and Justin Leon adding seven in his return from a concussion suffered at Vanderbilt, the Gators had just enough to stave off the Hogs' shooters. Arkansas made just 10 of 21 threes on the night, only slightly better than its season and SEC averages, but the Razorbacks timed their splashes beautifully, with four straight makes in a 1:09 span after Florida took a 10-point lead with 1:49 to play.

And the charity stripe had plenty to do with it, surprisingly. Florida was 30 for 36 at the line on the night, and while five of those misses came in the final 3:11 of play, the Gators also avoided a single ruinous empty trip, instead keeping just enough cushion by splitting pairs of freebies in all five of those instances.

Florida's coolest player finishing the Razorbacks with a perfect visit to the stripe was just the icing on the cake.