Coty Clarke

No. 2 Florida gets whooped by Arkansas, 80-69


This is what I wrote on Monday morning: “Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.”

This is what the score was with just over nine minutes left when No. 2 Florida visited Arkansas on Tuesday night: Arkansas 36, Florida 13.

The Razorbacks would eventually hang on, knocking off the Gators 80-69 behind 13 points and five assists from future NBA Draft pick BJ Young. Only two other players on Arkansas reached double-figures — Marshawn Powell and Marshall Qualls both had 11 points.

And that right there should give you a glimpse of what happened here.

Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is one of the tougher places to get a win in college basketball. It’s loud, it’s hot, and the Razorbacks — a streaky, pressing team that thrives on the energy of their crowd — are always ready to play. That’s precisely what happened on Tuesday, as Arkansas made 13 of their first 16 shots and seven of their first nine threes in opening up that 36-13 lead.

Florida simply didn’t have an answer.

There were a couple stretches at the end of the first half and during the second half where it looked like the Gators were ready to make a run and turn this into a ball-game, but inexcusable mistakes cost them. Florida started going 1-on-1 and forcing jumpers, they started settling for threes, they stopped being patient offensively. In the stretches where they moved the ball and got some post touches — essentially, when they ran their offense — Billy Donovan’s club got good looks and chipped away at the lead.

Here’s the perfect example. Midway through the second half, Florida had gotten the lead down to 14 points and had momentum heading in their direction. Then Scottie Wilbekin turned the ball over trying to force penetration. Casey Prather missed two free throws on the next possession, which was followed up by a missed Wilbekin three. After that, Prather threw the ball away, then missed a layup which was followed by another missed layup from Wilbekin and a turnover by Michael Frazier.

Seven possessions. Three turnovers. Two missed free throws. Two turnovers. And a missed three.

That’s not how you make a come back on the road.

College basketball, especially this year’s version of college hoops where there really isn’t a stand-alone team, is a sport where, every so often, a team simply doesn’t show up. It happened to North Carolina last year at Florida State, and they still made the Elite 8 despite losing their lottery pick point guard. Duke isn’t the same team without Ryan Kelly, but they still bounced back nicely from the mollywhopping they received from Miami.

Did Florida’s stats get inflated by absolutely pounding some weak SEC competition? Probably.

Were they overrated heading into Tuesday? It sure looks that way.

Is this still one of, if not the best team in the country? Yes.

And while I wish I hadn’t said that this group is “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” yesterday, I still think that Florida is very much in the conversation for being the best team in the country.

But let’s see how they bounce back from this defeat before we (i.e. me) go and do something like call Florida “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” again.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.