Keyontae Johnson

Keyontae Johnson

Visibly frustrated, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman had some flattering words for UF forward Keyontae Johnson during the postgame press conference.

"He's one of the best dribble drivers at the four spot in all of college basketball,” he said

He showcased that ability despite Arkansas' best attempts to stop him, as the sophomore helped realize his opponent's fears.

The game's leading scorer had a career-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds, getting to the line a season-high 17 times and converting 15 times.

Johnson's efforts, paired with a smothering performance from the defense, guided the Gators to a convincing 73-59 home victory on Tuesday night.

"When the plays broke down, I just happened to get past the defenders," Johnson said. "Made the smart decision for my team, getting fouled and hitting free throws."

The Razorbacks (16-10, 4-9 SEC) were atrocious early on offense, and Florida (17-9, 9-4 SEC) took full advantage.

An energetic approach on the offensive side of the ball allowed the Gators to build a double-digit lead that lasted for most of the half.

Guard Noah Locke continued his blistering streak from behind the three-point line early against Arkansas. He made his first three attempts from beyond the arc, scoring nine in the first half to lead the team.

As a group, Florida started 5 of 7 from deep, shooting with ease against the best three-point defense in the country coming into the game.

Arkansas missed 16 of its first 20 shots, and at one point, went over nine minutes without a made basket.

As a result, the home team's lead blossomed into a 30-11 pounding late in the first half.

That's when the momentum shifted like a California fault line.

Arkansas closed the gap to seven before halftime, going on a 14-4 run to make it 33-26 at the break.

Despite the comeback, UF held the Razorbacks to just 32 percent shooting overall, including 1 of 9 from the three-point line.

In the second half, the Razorbacks inched closer.

Arkansas stuck with the blueprint that gave them success late in the first, crawling to within two after star guard Mason Jones fast start to the second half.

The team's leading scorer had 13 in the last 20 minutes. He'd finish with 21 to lead all Arkansas scorers.

The three-pointer that gave it success stopped falling for UF, but the team adjusted and manufactured points in other ways.

Driving to the basket became an emphasis, and the Gators gave an undersized Razorbacks team all kinds of headaches inside the three-point line.

"We got some stops down the stretch and got to the rim," coach Mike White said. "I thought that was the difference in the game...Andrew (Nembhard) getting to the rim a couple times and Keyontae (Johnson) getting to the foul line."

Florida scored 18 points in the paint over the duration of the second half led by Johnson and Nembhard.

The two combined for 30 of the team's 40 points in the second half, shooting 7 of 9.

When the game was close, Florida needed a basket and Nembhard found space in the paint, converting all five of his field goal attempts in and around the colored area in the second half. He finished the game with 17 points and four assists.

"We got to get that level of play all the time from Andrew," White said. "He's a super laid back guy...when he plays likes a pitbull, he's really, really good."

Follow Evan on Twitter @evanmplepak and contact him at [email protected].

Evan Lepak is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida. Evan is the assistant sports editor and is currently covering UF men's basketball. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2018.