The Florida Gators willed themselves to a victory over Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville. They gave top-seeded Texas A&M all they could handle, but finally fell to the Aggies 72-66.

Injured center John Egbunu again tried to lead his team to victory, but his effort, and that of his team, fell short. Egbunu, who tore a ligament in his right thumb earlier in the week, again gutted it out, but fouled out late in the game. Florida is 0-6 in games he has been disqualified by fouls.

The Gators jumped out to a six-point lead midway through the first half. The Aggies fought back and held a 34-32 lead at halftime.

The second half was tight all of the way. Two free throws by Kasey Hill with 2:24 remaining tied the game at 61. Danuel House nailed a three-pointer for Texas A&M giving them a 68-62 lead with one minute remaining. Florida could only manage two more free throws down the stretch.

“Obviously, very disappointing for us,” said Gators’ coach Mike White. “Again, it’s twice we’ve had a really good Texas A&M team in a position to potentially do something special, and they just made the right plays down the stretch.”

For the second straight game, Hill had a good game off the bench, leading Florida in scoring with 18 points. Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith added 11.

House and Tyler Davis paced the Aggies with 15 points each. Jalen Jones added 13.

Florida fell to 19-14 and is most likely headed to the NIT. A win over a quality team such as Texas A&M would have gone a long way to making the NCAA tournament field.

“Wherever we’re sent, we’ll be excited to play, or we’ll find the right guys who are excited to play,” said White. “We’ll continue to represent Florida and play hard and look to improve.”

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