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Arkansas faces tough test against No. 1 Florida

by Tom Murphy | January 22, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnastics team proved it has the talent to push past the 197-point mark last week.

The Razorbacks had to count a fall on the second rotation against LSU, but rebounded from the uneven bars errors to post a 196.625, nearly three-tenths of a point higher than their season debut at LSU the week before.

No. 8 Arkansas (0-2) will need every tenth of a point it can wrangle tonight when it hosts No. 1 Florida (2-0) at 7 at Barnhill Arena.

Handstands, dismounts, every technically sound element they can muster will be important against the Gators, who have scored 197.25 or better in both their wins over Auburn and Georgia.

Second-year coach Jordyn Wieber said she knows the Razorbacks can perform better than last week.

“My message to the team has just been let’s be a better team than we were last weekend and then each week we get a little bit better,” Wieber said.

“That’s the road this team is on and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

Though the Razorbacks fell behind by more than seven-tenths of a point at the halfway mark last week, they finished strong with a 49.325 on the balance beam and a 49.5 on the floor exercise.

The beam score came after Gillian Rutz came off the apparatus in the second position. SEC co-specialist of the week Maggie O’Hara (9.925), Sarah Shaffer (9.9), Sophia Carter (9.9) and Kennedy Hambrick (9.825) made up for it with big performances.

“I thought it was great,” Wieber said. “The hit routines were scoring really high. They looked confident and solid, even though the pressure was on with our second person up falling.”

The Razorbacks racked up on the floor, with Carter leading the way at 9.925 in the anchor position, and Shaffer, Hambrick, Bailey Lovett and Abby Johnston all scoring 9.875 or higher.

Florida scored 197.25 at home against Georgia in a home meet last week and that was with the Gators not at their best.

Florida all-around ace Trinity Thomas had her streak of eight consecutive SEC gymnast of the week awards snapped after she fell off the beam for the first time in 22 meets in the win.

Thomas won the vault and uneven bars last week to push her total to 60 career titles.

The Gators have dominated the series against Arkansas, winning 45 of 48 meetings.

Arkansas junior Amanda Elswick is questionable after missing last week with an ankle sprain. All-around Kiara Gianfagna, sidelined with a foot injury in the opener, might be able to add more on her plate after returning on the uneven bars last week.

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