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Florida 78, Arkansas 65: Gators hold off Hogs on Senior Night

After racing out to a lead, the Gators had to sweat for a Senior Night W.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team got its expected win over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Senior Night, and got it by a 78-65 score.

That doesn’t mean the Gators didn’t have to work for it.

After racing out to a 27-11 lead in the first half, Florida spent most of the rest of the game defending a double-digit lead, but never pushed its advantage to 20 points. Arkansas never closed to closer than a six-point deficit — and Florida answered that close with a 8-0 run, banishing any real drama about the outcome other than margin — but the Razorbacks never fully lost contact with the Gators, either, with Jaylen Barford, Dusty Hannahs, and Moses Kingsley combining for 48 points that paced the Hogs.

All of those three players also scored more points than any Gator but Canyon Barry, as Florida’s grad transfer senior put up 14 points in a rare start. Barry was joined in double figures by 12-point efforts from Chris Chiozza, Kasey Hill, and KeVaughn Allen. Keith Stone scored eight points — his most in more than a month — off the bench, as did Devin Robinson, who also had seven rebounds while starting on the pine to allow Barry to see the floor for the tip.

Kevarrius Hayes, coming off the bench to facilitate a start for senior walk-on Schuyler Rimmer, had a quiet finish to what could have been a very loud night. Hayes finished with six points, eight boards, and three blocks — and no contributions to the stat line after the 15:22 mark of the second half other than two personal fouls.

Florida’s win is one over a rather unimpressive team that will nevertheless make the NCAA Tournament, and one that secures no worse than the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament next week. It also keeps Florida technically alive to be SEC co-champions with Kentucky, but the Wildcats will hold most tiebreakers and are highly unlikely to fall in their season finale, a road visit to Texas A&M.

Mostly, this was a fine farewell to a stitched-together senior class, one that spent just over two short months together for games in the renovated O’Connell Center.

These Gators won’t be back to this facility for anything open to the public.

Unless, of course, there’s reason for a celebration...