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Florida ends skid, beats Arkansas 66-50 in SEC Tournament

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Florida ended its slump just in time to rescue its hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.

Keyontae Johnson scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds Thursday as No. 8 seed Florida snapped a three-game skid by defeating No. 9 seed Arkansas 66-50 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

''It was a must win to get there,'' said Florida's KeVaughn Allen, who scored 17 points. ''We were thinking win or go home.''

Florida's victory boosted its postseason profile, but the Gators (18-14) can make an even bigger statement Friday by upsetting No. 9 LSU (26-5) in the SEC quarterfinals.

LSU is the No. 1 seed in this tournament. Florida won 82-77 at LSU on Feb. 20 but lost to the Tigers 79-78 at home on March 6, with both those games requiring overtime.

''I feel like we still have more to go,'' Johnson said. ''We still have to get more big wins to prove our point.''

Florida took the lead for good with just over 18 minutes remaining and stayed ahead thanks to its defense. Arkansas (17-15) failed to make a basket in the game's final 7 minutes, 54 seconds.

''I feel like we could have got anything that we wanted,'' said Arkansas' Daniel Gafford, who led the Razorbacks with 15 points. ''We couldn't execute. We shot ourselves in the foot down the stretch.''

Arkansas and Florida entered the tournament heading in opposite directions, though only the slumping Gators had a realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. At the start of the day, Florida was 33rd and Arkansas 63rd in the NET rankings, which have replaced the RPI as a criterion for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Arkansas had followed up a six-game losing streak by winning its last three regular-season contests to go back above .500. Florida had won five straight in late February before ending the regular season with three consecutive losses.

Florida turned things around Thursday in part because leading scorer Allen broke out of his personal slump.

Allen had scored a total of 18 points in his last four regular-season games, but the graduate of North Little Rock (Arkansas) High School scored 17 points Thursday against his home-state school.

Florida was clinging to a 47-44 lead when Allen took a 3-point shot that bounced off the rim multiple times before falling through with 7:26 remaining. That 3-point shot started a 17-4 run that helped Florida seal the victory.

''He got a couple for him to go early, and you could see in his body language, his confidence level increased a little bit,'' Florida coach Mike White said. ''Down the stretch, we rode him.''

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas: The Razorbacks were unable to do anything against Florida's defense again. Arkansas' 50 points Thursday represented a season low. The Razorbacks' lowest point total during the regular season came in a 57-51 loss to Florida on Jan. 9.

''Very disappointed in our performance,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''(We'd) been playing some pretty good basketball. To come on this stage and not play as well we've been playing is kind of disappointing.''

Florida: Allen's recovery from his late-season slump gives Florida plenty of reason for encouragement. The Gators' hopes of beating LSU could depnd on whether second-leading scorer Noah Locke can bounce back after shooting 1 of 9 against Arkansas.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Johnson had gone scoreless in Florida's regular-season victory at Arkansas. He had arguably the best performance of his career in the rematch.

His 20 points shattered his previous career high of 15, set three times during the regular season. His 12 rebounds were just one off his career high.

QUOTABLE

''Bottom line is they played a lot more aggressive than we did,'' said Arkansas' Isaiah Joe, who scored 12 points. ''They wanted it a lot more.''

UP NEXT

Arkansas awaits a possible NIT invitation.

Florida faces LSU in an SEC quarterfinal Friday.

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Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

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Key Players
J. Harris
A. Nembhard
32.2 Min. Per Game 32.2
7.9 Pts. Per Game 7.9
5.2 Ast. Per Game 5.2
2.7 Reb. Per Game 2.7
33.8 Field Goal % 40.8
12.1 Three Point % 34.8
69.4 Free Throw % 77.1
  Defensive rebound by Florida 18.0
  Isaiah Joe missed 3-pt. jump shot 20.0
+ 1 Andrew Nembhard made 2nd of 2 free throws 27.0
+ 1 Andrew Nembhard made 1st of 2 free throws 27.0
  Personal foul on Mason Jones 27.0
+ 1 Isaiah Joe made 2nd of 2 free throws 30.0
+ 1 Isaiah Joe made 1st of 2 free throws 30.0
  Personal foul on Jalen Hudson 30.0
+ 3 Keyontae Johnson made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Andrew Nembhard 38.0
  Offensive rebound by Kevarrius Hayes 1:07
  KeVaughn Allen missed 3-pt. jump shot 1:09
Team Stats
Points 50 66
Field Goals 17-46 (37.0%) 21-55 (38.2%)
3-Pointers 4-16 (25.0%) 8-22 (36.4%)
Free Throws 12-16 (75.0%) 16-22 (72.7%)
Total Rebounds 26 41
Offensive 8 17
Defensive 17 21
Team 1 3
Assists 11 11
Steals 9 8
Blocks 3 2
Turnovers 13 12
Fouls 22 18
Technicals 0 0
15 PTS, 6 REB
20 PTS, 12 REB
12T
away team logo Arkansas 17-15 282250
home team logo Florida 18-14 303666
Team Stats
away team logo Arkansas 17-15 75.7 PPG 37 RPG 16.1 APG
home team logo Florida 18-14 68.3 PPG 36.5 RPG 12.2 APG
Key Players
10
D. Gafford F 16.9 PPG 8.7 RPG 0.7 APG 66.0 FG%
11
K. Johnson F 8.1 PPG 6.3 RPG 1.3 APG 47.4 FG%
Top Scorers
D. Gafford F 15 PTS 6 REB 0 AST
K. Johnson F 20 PTS 12 REB 0 AST
37.0 FG% 38.2
25.0 3PT FG% 36.4
75.0 FT% 72.7
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
D. Gafford 15 6 0 6/9 0/0 3/5 2 33 0 1 1 2 4
I. Joe 12 2 3 3/11 2/9 4/5 2 34 2 0 2 1 1
D. Sills 6 1 1 1/2 1/1 3/4 5 21 1 0 2 1 0
J. Harris 2 4 5 1/6 0/1 0/0 1 37 3 0 5 1 3
G. Osabuohien 2 3 0 0/4 0/2 2/2 2 26 1 0 1 1 2
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
D. Gafford 15 6 0 6/9 0/0 3/5 2 33 0 1 1 2 4
I. Joe 12 2 3 3/11 2/9 4/5 2 34 2 0 2 1 1
D. Sills 6 1 1 1/2 1/1 3/4 5 21 1 0 2 1 0
J. Harris 2 4 5 1/6 0/1 0/0 1 37 3 0 5 1 3
G. Osabuohien 2 3 0 0/4 0/2 2/2 2 26 1 0 1 1 2
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
M. Jones 7 6 1 3/10 1/3 0/0 4 30 1 0 1 1 5
R. Chaney 4 3 1 2/3 0/0 0/0 2 14 1 1 1 1 2
A. Bailey 2 0 0 1/1 0/0 0/0 3 5 0 1 0 0 0
J. Holmes - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Garland - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Embery-Simpson - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I. Ali - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Henderson - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Stevens - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Obukwelu - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 50 25 11 17/46 4/16 12/16 22 200 9 3 13 8 17
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
K. Johnson 20 12 0 8/14 3/5 1/5 3 32 0 0 1 6 6
K. Allen 17 0 0 6/14 3/7 2/2 3 33 1 1 1 0 0
K. Hayes 8 7 1 3/4 0/0 2/3 3 32 1 1 2 4 3
J. Hudson 7 6 0 1/5 1/4 4/4 4 23 1 0 4 0 6
A. Nembhard 6 4 8 1/6 1/3 3/4 1 38 2 0 1 1 3
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
K. Johnson 20 12 0 8/14 3/5 1/5 3 32 0 0 1 6 6
K. Allen 17 0 0 6/14 3/7 2/2 3 33 1 1 1 0 0
K. Hayes 8 7 1 3/4 0/0 2/3 3 32 1 1 2 4 3
J. Hudson 7 6 0 1/5 1/4 4/4 4 23 1 0 4 0 6
A. Nembhard 6 4 8 1/6 1/3 3/4 1 38 2 0 1 1 3
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
D. Bassett 6 4 1 1/1 0/0 4/4 2 11 0 0 1 3 1
N. Locke 2 4 1 1/9 0/3 0/0 1 24 3 0 1 3 1
M. Okauru 0 1 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 1 5 0 0 0 0 1
I. Stokes 0 0 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0
K. Stone - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Gak - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Ballard - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Fava - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Krause - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 66 38 11 21/55 8/22 16/22 18 200 8 2 12 17 21