GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Junior Coty Clarke scored 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting for the Arkansas men’s basketball team at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday evening in a 71-54 loss to the No. 4 Florida Gators.
Arkansas (17-10, 8-6 SEC) had Florida (22-4, 12-2 SEC) close at the break, but an early rally after the break allowed the Gators to pull away and pick up the home win.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We scratched and clawed and gave ourselves a chance, even with some adversity with the early fouls. In the second half, Florida really attacked the glass and we didn’t make shots.
Florida jumped out with 11 quick points out of halftime to take an 11-point lead into the first media timeout of the second half. That led grew to as many as 20 midway through the final period as Arkansas struggled with foul trouble and a hot shooting performance for the Gators.
Clarke did yeoman’s work for the Razorbacks, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half, but was not able to get consistent scoring around him to overcome the Florida attack which hit 46 percent of its shots for the game and 53 percent in the second half. Clarke also added a team high seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Anthlon Bell was Arkansas’ outside threat, hitting four three-point baskets for the second straight game to tally 14 points.
“(Clarke) was a warrior,” Anderson said. “He was fighting and active and playing to win.”
The Gators began the game on a 7-0 run over the opening 2-plus minutes, but the Razorbacks weathered the initial storm by Florida and went on a 5-0 run of its own to close the gap to 7-5 just two minutes later. The game would remain close throughout the first half despite several runs by the home squad, but each Florida spurt was matched by an Arkansas counter and the teams went into the locker room with a four-point game, 32-28. Marshawn Powell led the Razorbacks with seven points, despite limited time with foul trouble, while Clarke and Bell each accounted for six in the opening 20 minutes.
Freshman Michael Qualls matched Clarke’s rebounding with seven boards and added a pair of assists. Four Florida players scored in double digits, led by Mike Rosario who accounted for 15.
The Razorbacks remain on the road for their next contest, a Wednesday night affair in Baton Rouge, La., against the LSU Tigers.