FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Dorian Finney-Smith and Scottie Wilbekin weren’t about to let a little thing like injuries get in the way for Florida.
The banged-up Gators, playing without leading scorer Casey Prather, overcame a host of ailments and earned an 84-82 overtime win at Arkansas today.
They did so behind a career-high 22 points from Finney-Smith, starting in the place of Prather, as well as a timely jumper near the end of regulation from Wilbekin – who scored nine points in overtime as Florida (13-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) completed its comeback.
Prather, averaging 17 points, missed the game because of a bone bruise in his right knee, but he was hardly the only Gator affected by injuries. Wilbekin missed two days of practice this week with a sprained ankle, and center Patric Young also missed time with a sore knee.
Wilbekin finished with 18 points for Florida, and Michael Frazier had 15 and Young 10.
Finney-Smith, starting for just the second time this season, added 15 rebounds – including nine offensive – while also connecting on three 3-pointers.
“You’re going into this game not really knowing what you’re going to get,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “... I think the one guy we, at least I tried to instill just a belief and confidence was in (Finney-Smith). Just to go, be aggressive, play through mistakes.”
The Razorbacks (11-4, 0-2) had a chance to all but seal the win with 17.1 seconds remaining in regulation, but Alandise Harris missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give Florida the ball back down 66-64.
Wilbekin answered with the game-tying bank shot with 2 seconds left for the Gators, who then took control quickly in overtime while snapping Arkansas’ 23-game home winning streak.
“It means a lot to us,” Finney-Smith said. “It tells you about our team. We play for each other. Any given night, it can be someone’s night and tonight it was just me.”
Ky Madden led the Razorbacks with a career-high 23 points, hitting 5 of 10 3-pointers. Coty Clarke added a season-high 16 points and 14 rebounds, but neither was enough for Arkansas – which has lost two straight for the first time this season.
“We just didn’t finish the deal,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “We had opportunities at the free-throw line. We had some open shots we didn’t make. We had some open shots we didn’t make.
“... This one hurts. Why? Because we felt we played well enough (to win).”
Finney-Smith had nine points at halftime, and he continued to have the hot hand in the second half and overtime – where he scored five straight points to put the Gators up 77-69.
Following a pair of baskets from Harris, who finished with 11 points, the Razorbacks closed the Florida lead to 82-79 with 21.9 seconds remaining in overtime. However, Harris missed an inside attempt and Wilbekin – who had nine points in overtime – sealed the win with free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Michael Qualls, who finished with 10 points, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull Arkansas within 84-82.
“(Harris) didn’t make the play, but we also didn’t make the plays and execute and win the game,” Clarke said. “So, it’s not on him but us.”
The Gators took a 23-22 lead midway through the first half after a floater by Kasey Hill, but Arkansas – which hadn’t lost at home since a 91-82 defeat to Syracuse on Nov. 30, 2012 – responded with a 10-2 run to take its largest lead of the half at 32-25.
Clarke, who had 13 points in the first half, matched his career high with three 3-pointers, and he put the Razorbacks up 64-57 with a free throw.
However, Florida closed out regulation on a 9-2 run to tie the game – eventually winning it in overtime in Bud Walton Arena, where the Gators lost last season.
“We didn’t want anything less (than a win),” Wilbekin said. “Us four seniors, with this being our last game here, we wanted to go out with a win.”