FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A lot of people expected Florida guard KeVaughn Allen to have a good night on his return to Arkansas. Even knowing that ahead of time did little to help the Razorbacks against the No. 25 Gators in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Allen hit key baskets to end run-after-Arkansas-run Thursday as Florida took an 81-72 victory. Daryl Macon scored 22 while trying to keep the Razorbacks close, but conceded after the game there was little to do but watch.
“Allen’s one of those types of players, if he hits one, then here comes another one and here comes another one,” Macon said. “We just had to find a way to contain him. Tonight was just his night. He was just on. He was hitting off-balance 3s. The rim was big for him tonight.”
Kevarrius Hayes’ dunk and Allen’s 3-pointer made it 63-52 after Arkansas had trimmed the lead to six in the second half. After Moses Kingsley cut Florida’s edge to 65-58, Allen drained another 3 with 6:35 left to kill the Razorbacks’ momentum. Florida (10-3) led by double digits until the final 11 seconds.
“He was excited to come back here, I’m sure, but probably to see his family more than anything else,” Florida coach Mike White said. He said that while he had talked to Allen about the rough reception in store from the crowd of 20,000-plus, “obviously it wasn’t a factor.”
Devin Robinson added 17 points for Florida and Kasey Hill and Hayes each had 10.
Macon scored 22 points for Arkansas (11-2). Kingsley had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Anton Beard scored 10 points. Beard and Allen each went to North Little Rock High School.
Allen had already drawn boos from the crowd during the pregame introductions, and the sizable crowd was even less welcoming as he shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.
“A guy comes back home, you know he’s going to play well,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said after the Razorbacks’ eight-game winning streak ended.
Allen played down his personal expectations — other than to please the 30 or so family members and friends who cannot travel to Florida to see him with any regularity.
“I was aiming to go out as I would be like for any other game,” he said. “I really wasn’t paying attention to the crowd.”
Florida was one of two ranked SEC teams this week and is the only team in the rankings with three losses (to Gonzaga, Duke and Florida State, each of whom are ranked); Kentucky was the other at No. 8. The Gators were solid enough to justify their spot. They don’t play another ranked team until Kentucky in February.
Arkansas received votes for the first time this season this week, but given its overall game performance Thursday there’s little reason for that to continue. Florida at No. 25 is clearly a better team.
Florida rattled Arkansas into 13 turnovers, including 10 in the first half while taking a 44-35 lead, but the Gators aided the Razorbacks considerably by hitting only 12 of their 21 free throws.
“Not that we strung together 40 (minutes), it was one of our best efforts,” White said. “We had three games (the Gators’ three losses) — we had a half in which we weren’t very good.”
Arkansas has won 11 games but still has only one victory against a team from a major conference. Anderson said his team showed bright spots but discovered that conference games provide much tougher competition than the non-conference slate that included only Texas and Minnesota from major conferences.
TICKETS FOR TWO
The teams pushed the starting time back two hours so it wouldn’t conflict with the Arkansas football team’s appearance in the Belk Bowl, then Arkansas opened Bud Walton Arena four hours ahead of time so ticket-holders could catch the football game on the big-screen TVs and the basketball live.
Mercifully, as the football Razorbacks blew a 24-0 lead in their bowl game, the arena cut away from the Charlotte, North Carolina, telecast so Razorbacks fans didn’t have to watch Virginia Tech win 35-24.
THAT BIG BAND SOUND
Members of the Arkansas pep band who also play in the Razorback Marching Band had to travel for the football team’s bowl game. About five dozen band members from Fort Smith Southside High School, 50 miles south of Fayetteville, put on Razorback Band T-shirts and filled in.
Florida will play Ole Miss next Tuesday in Gainesville. The Rebels lost to Kentucky in their SEC opener Thursday.
Arkansas travels to Tennessee, which beat Texas A&M in its SEC game Thursday.
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