The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Scottie Wilbekin saves Florida, ends Arkansas’ 23-game home win streak

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

When Scottie Wilbekin reinjured his right ankle late in Wednesday's victory over South Carolina, nobody on the Florida coaching staff was sure if their starting point guard would play three days later at Arkansas.

Needless to say, the Gators are glad Wilbekin did.

On a day when leading scorer Casey Prather sat out with a bone bruise in his knee and center Patric Young was hampered by tendinitis in his knees, Wilbekin was the biggest reason the Gators remained unbeaten in SEC play. He banked in a pull-up jumper in the lane to force overtime and scored nine points in the extra session as Florida ended Arkansas' 23-game home win streak with a 84-82 overtime victory.

Wilbekin was just 2 of 10 from the field prior to his game-tying shot late in regulation, but his presence was significant for Florida even before he started scoring. He delivered defense, toughness and leadership in the backcourt and committed only one turnover against Arkansas' relentless pressure defense.

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Kasey Hill (Getty Images)

If anyone was still on the fence about Florida's status as a Final Four-caliber team, Saturday's comeback from a seven-point deficit in the final five minutes should provide more reason to believe in the Gators. Arkansas may be a train wreck on the road, but the Razorbacks are deadly with their home crowd behind them, as evidenced by their victories over Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Missouri at Bud Walton Arena last season.

The problem now for Arkansas is that the SEC won't afford many more chances for marquee home wins. If the Razorbacks don't topple Kentucky in Fayetteville on Tuesday, they're probably going to have to beat a quality team or two on the road to get into NCAA tournament contention, no easy feat considering Auburn is the only SEC team Arkansas has beaten away from home in Mike Anderson's tenure.

Arkansas might have gotten that big home win against Florida were it not for Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier. Finney-Smith had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Michael Frazier sank four threes, all of which helped the Gators stay in the game until Wilbekin was able to put his stamp on it.

The final play for Wilbekin began as a screen and roll for Wilbekin and Finney-Smith, with Michael Frazier spotted up behind the arc in the right corner to dissuade Arkansas from double teaming. Wilbekin couldn't shake his man on his first hesitation dribble, but he created enough separation on his second one to get a shot off that neither he nor Florida fans will soon forget.

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