Florida isn’t done just yet.
A season-high 18 points from Kasey Hill and a gritty performance by the injured John Egbunu led eighth-seeded Florida to a 68-61 win over No. 9 seed Arkansas on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville.
Both teams struggled shooting the ball — the Gators went 21-of-54 (38.9 percent) from the field while the Razorbacks shot 22-of-61 (36.1 percent) — but Florida (19-13) made shots late when it counted to seal the victory.
Arkansas cut Florida’s lead to 60-59 late in the second half, but a layup by Hill, two made free throws each by Dorian Finney-Smith and KeVaughn Allen, and a Devin Robinson slam dunk helped the Gators pull away.
"We did enough the second half defensively, stepped up and made a few big shots to get us that first win," UF coach Mike White said.
Hill’s 18 points led the way for Florida on offense and Finney-Smith added 13 points — all in the second half — along with nine rebounds. Egbunu, playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, made all three of his field-goal attempts and scored eight points to go along with nine rebounds.
"Unbelievable," White said of the injured Egbunu’s effort. "I’m not shocked, but I’m really surprised that he played that well."
Coming off the bench, Egbunu wasn’t expected to play many minutes, if any at all. In 24 minutes, he made 2-of-3 free throws, dove for loose balls and dunked twice with a large brace on his right hand.
"Throughout the course of the game, the pain was mild," Egbunu said of his thumb. "Apart from a few times when I dove on the floor and kind of hit it pretty bad. But apart from that… it was bearable."
For the Razorbacks (16-16), Dusty Hannahs scored a career-high 33 points, but the rest of Arkansas’ offense was cold.
Moses Kingsley, the team’s leading scorer (16.1 points per game), scored just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Aside from Hannahs and Kingsley, the Razorbacks shot just 6-of-26 from the field. Florida’s bench outscored Arkansas’ 28-5.
"It was fun in hindsight," Hannahs said of his career day, "but it isn’t anymore."
With the loss, Arkansas was eliminated from the SEC Tournament while the Gators advanced to the quarterfinals in Nashville. It was a game Florida desperately needed to win in order to stay in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth.
The Gators will take a more challenging step toward that goal Friday at 1 p.m. when they face off against No. 1-seed Texas A&M.
"You can’t do something special in a tournament like this, obviously, unless you win the first one," White said, "and we took care of business."