FAYETTEVILLE — For almost 40 minutes, I thought Arkansas was going to disprove a long-held theory that point guard by committee is not effective against a quality opponent. Turns out, such an approach can work if the committee chairman makes 3-pointers.
Rashad Madden does not fit the point guard mold — you know, the ball-handling wizard who penetrates the defense and sets up others for easy baskets — but each of this three 3s in the second half against Florida and each 3 was the salvation of a stagnant offense and helped Arkansas to a seven-point lead with less than 5 minutes to play.
The convenient scapegoat for the 84-82 overtime loss to No. 10 Florida is Alandise Harris, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17 seconds remaining in regulation and the Razorbacks in front by two. In his defense, Harris was on the line because he was the only one who aggressively pursued a loose ball.
In the final minute of overtime, it was also Harris who did not shy away from a must-make situation by attacking the basket with a dunk, an in-close goal and a miss.
In overtime, been there, done that times two — specifically Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin — is an invaluable asset. Prior to this year, Young played in 111 games for the Gators, two more than Wilbekin. When the extra period began, Arkansas did not have a big man on the court and Young immediately went to the basket.
He missed, but scored easily on Florida’s next possession. After a Fred Gulley pass was intercepted, Wilbekin made a 3 for 71-66.
Arkansas fans hanging our in the aisles turned their back on the court after Dorian Finney-Smith made two free throws for 77-69. Harris helped make it close, but Wilbiken kept the Razorbacks at bay by making 6-of-8 free throws.
More than 13 minutes deep in the first half, a sequence illustrated the difference at point guard between Arkansas and Florida. At one end, Madden stood outside the 3-point line and played catch with teammates. The third time he received a pass, Madden fired up a 3 that clanged off the rim.
At the other end, Wilbiken made a nice move up the baseline and bounced a pass to Will Yeguette, who made two free throws.
Florida fans who are so inclined can point out that the Gators won without their leading scorer, 6-foot-6 Casey Prather, who was out with a bone bruise. Through 14 games, he was shooting 62.4 percent from the floor.
Unlike coaches and players, neutral observers are not limited to one game at a time and after Arkansas completed nonconference play with an 11-2 record, the conclusion was that a 3-2 start in SEC play would go a long way toward putting the Razorbacks in position for postseason competition, maybe the NCAA Tournament.
The formula for getting to 3-2 including shaking off the road blahs at Texas A&M early in the week, splitting at home with Florida and Kentucky, and beating either Georgia or Tennessee away from Fayetteville. Instead, Arkansas missed 11-of-19 in-close shots at College Station and shot 37.5 percent against Florida.
"We’re behind the eight-ball," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Saturday.
Arkansas took 13 more shots than Florida, mostly because the Gators traveled with the ball more than a half-dozen times.
Bobby Portis, who made 21-of-24 from the field in the three games prior to A&M, was 3-of-10 vs. the Aggies and 6-of-16 vs. the Gators. Michael Qualls followed up a 1-of-10 against A&M with 2-of-10 on Saturday.
Madden’s 9-of-16 from the field included second-half 3s for 47-42, 50-45 and 60-55.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.