THE STORY LINE
Florida Coach Billy Donovan is 8-0 at home vs. Arkansas.
Arkansas is one of the hottest teams in the SEC right now, and the Hogs are hoping a trip to the Sunshine State – where they’ve never beaten a Billy Donovan-led Florida team – doesn’t cool them off.
The Razorbacks (17-9, 8-5 SEC) take on Donovan’s fifth-ranked Gators (21-4, 11-2) on Saturday at 6 p.m. Central in an ESPNU-televised game. Arkansas has won five of its past six games, including an 80-69 win over then-No. 2 Florida on Feb. 5.
But the Hogs, who have a quick turnaround from a tough Thursday night game, also haven’t won at Florida since 1995. Donovan is 8-0 all-time at home against Arkansas, and the Gators are 12-0 at home this season.
“You always talk about challenges. This is the ultimate challenge,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said Thursday night after a 62-60 win over Georgia. “You’re going into the O’Connell Center. Those guys will be ready. They will. They’re a very outstanding team. They’ve got four guys that can just stand out here and shoot it. And then you’ve got Patric Young in the middle.”
Florida has four players averaging at least 10 points per game – senior guards Kenny Boynton (13.0) and Mike Rosario (12.9), senior forward Erik Murphy (12.5) and Young (10.1), the junior center. Juniro guard Scott Wilbekin averages 9.3.
The Gators, who are coming off a 63-60 loss at Missouri on Tuesday, are the top-shooting team in the SEC.
But the Razorbacks had the hot hand the last time the teams played, making seven of their first nine three-pointers and shooting 49.1 percent from the field. The Hogs, who never trailed, led by 17 at halftime.
“When we played, we shot the ball well here,” Anderson said. “We defended, but we shot the ball well here. And so now we’re going to their venue, and we’re going to go play. We’ve played them and they know about us and we know about them. But it will be the ultimate challenge. Yet at the same time it’s going to be an opportunity.”
ARKANSAS (17-9, 8-5 SEC)
G BJ Young (6-3, Soph., 16.2 ppg, 3.7 apg)
G Mardracus Wade (6-2, Jr., 6.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
G Rickey Scott (6-3, Jr., 5.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
F Marshawn Powell (6-7, Jr., 15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F Coty Clarke (6-7, Jr., 6.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
COACH: Mike Anderson (35-23 in 2nd season, 235-121 overall)
FLORIDA (21-4, 11-2)
G Kenny Boynton (6-2, Sr., 13.0 ppg, 3.2 apg)
G Mike Resario (6-3, Sr., 12.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
G Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, Jr., 9.3 ppg, 5.4 apg)
F Erik Murphy (6-10, Sr., 12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
C Patric Young (6-9, Jr., 10.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
COACH: Billy Donovan (407-162 in 17th season, 442-182 overall)
The Gators have a one-game lead over Alabama in the SEC standings with five regular-season games left. Arkansas is tied for fourth with Missouri and Ole Miss. … Arkansas is averaging 75.5 points per game, while Florida is allowing just 53.0 per game. … The Hogs’ three-game conference winning streak is their longest in SEC play under second-year head coach Anderson. … In the previous matchup between the teams, Arkansas’ bench outscored Florida’s 40-12. Sophomore guard B.J. Young had 13 points to lead Arkansas. Rosario led Florida with 15. … Florida leads the all-time series 15-11 and had won five straight over the Hogs until the loss in Fayetteville this month. … This is the first time the teams will play each other twice in the regular season.
Anderson on his team maturing: “We’re growing. I think we’re growing. We had adversity take place, and a lot of times, especially last year even some this year when we had adversity take place we kind of, we tried to do it individually. And when you start to do it individually, your hole gets even bigger. ... I just see a calmness in them now vs. when you’re real intense and you’ve got to do something. Now there’s a little, ‘We’ve got this, Coach.’ That’s progress.”