Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST
SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|FLORIDA GATORS||ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS|
|Head Coach: Billy Donovan||Head Coach: Mike Anderson|
|Record: 11-9 (4-3 SEC)||Record: 16-4 (5-2 SEC)|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Southeastern|
Odds: Florida -7
JIM MCELWAIN TAKES CENTER COURT
STAR MUST RISE AGAIN
Game-winning dunk aside, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been stuck in one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. Finney-Smith went without a field goal for 61:43 of game clock, going without a basket in the second half against Ole Miss all the way through 39 of the 40 minutes against Alabama.
Once Florida’s leading scorer, Finney-Smith has slid into second behind junior guard Michael Frazier II (who struggled scoring in his own right on Tuesday) in that category, but as a 47.3 percent shooter who hits 40.5 percent of his triples (second-best on the team, ahead of Frazier), the Gators need Finney-Smith’s scoring to help move the needle.
“I think he was just OK in the game. He didn’t really do a whole lot in the game. I thought he had some decent looks but the ball did not go down for him,” said Donovan about Finney-Smith’s 1-for-6 performance against Alabama.
Finney-Smith’s shining moment, of course, was his go-ahead dunk with 22 seconds to play. Just like against Ole Miss, he received a pass beyond the arc; this time, he took a couple dribbles and then drove the lane for a thunderous slam (as opposed to running out the clock and hoisting a long three).
“It was good to see, [especially] coming out of the Ole Miss game where I thought – late in the game inside of a minute we were up two or three points – he settled for a long three. It was better in this game that he put the ball on the floor and tried to get some action going to the rim. That was growth and a step for him,” said Donovan.
Yet while his offense was lacking, Finney-Smith was still able to contribute for the Gators on Saturday.
“I thought he played well defensively in the game. Dorian is always a good ball mover, he’s kind of a pass-first guy. … At the end of the game, he made a great defensive play.”
Indeed, Finney-Smith’s big block in the paint with just seconds remaining turned his go-ahead dunk seconds earlier into a game-winner. It was one of three blocks he registered in the contest, and he also was more careful with the ball, coughing it up just once after committing five turnovers in the two consecutive games prior.
“Getting a piece of the shot and keeping it alive and coming down with it was a great play,” noted Donovan. “I give him credit for staying engaged in the game like he did the whole entire time because clearly for him personally it was not a great performance in terms of the playing level he has been playing to as of late.”
Now back in the friendly confines of the O’Dome, Florida needs Finney-Smith to shake off his recent struggles and become the confident, consistent player he looked to be growing into at the start of non-conference play.
The Gators must also find a way to protect their homecourt after seeing two program-record home winning streaks come to a crashing halt this season.
“Any time you’re talking about home record or previous records, that stuff, that’s really in the past. This team’s got to carve out its own way, it’s own life of itself,” explained Donovan.
“We’re playing a very very good team on Saturday at one o’clock. It doesn’t really make a difference to me if it’s home or away. We’re going to have to play well to give ourselves a chance to win because clearly – right now if you look at it from start to finish, at least up to this point in time – Arkansas’ been, without question, one of the best teams in league.”
HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS
» Florida is 16-11 all-time against Arkansas with the Gators never defeating the Hogs before Donovan took over the program (16-6). Florida is 9-2 when hosting Arkansas in the O’Dome, undefeated in the series under Donovan (9-0).
» On Tuesday, the Gators ended a three-game losing streak, their first since the end of the 2011-12 season.
» UF is one defeat away from being on the receiving end of double-digit losses for the first time since 2011-12. In the last 16 seasons, Donovan has only lost 10+ games five times.
» The Gators were 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; UF is 10-5 this season when doing so.
» Florida has put forward 10 different starting lineups in 20 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» The Gators learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; Florida is 4-6 in such affairs this season.
» UF is on pace for 17 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
» Probable (1): Junior guard Michael Frazier II (hip pointer)
» Out (2): Sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman G Brandone Francis (academics – season)
Donovan did not have much of an injury update on Frazier, whose hip pointer obviously affected him against Alabama on Tuesday. Frazier is nevertheless expected to play – and start – on Saturday.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on what redshirt junior G Eli Carter has been able to do recently: “He’s got to continue to play with really good effort and good motor. … I’m fine with him shooting the basketball and being aggressive, but we need other things from him defensively because he’s had to line up the last couple games and play really, really good players. … As long as he’s taking good shots, I’m OK with it, but we need some other things from him energy-wise on the defensive end of the floor, and offensively as well.”
» Donovan on freshman point guard Chris Chiozza stepping up, especially late in games, as the season has progressed: “I think Chris has a good feel for how to play. I think he can see the floor very, very well. I think he can see what defenses are doing and how they’re rotating. … [Alabama] was a game where he did really provide a lot of energy for us on both ends of the floor.”
» Donovan on how sophomore center Chris Walker can continue to improve: “His problem, calling it like it is, is when there’s a lot of physical contact, there’s times where he isn’t physically strong enough to finish and make some of those plays where there’s a lot of contact. He’s getting better at it, but I think earlier on where he was able to play in space and jump and run and those kinds of things, he has been very effective. When it’s jammed up in the halfcourt and there’s bodies on top of him, sometimes he can get physically overwhelmed. He’s learning how to use his athleticism and his speed in a way in short spaces where he can be a little more effective for us.”
» Donovan on Florida’s penchant for missing layups and two-point field goals: “The one thing I do see is a lack of consistency of putting the ball in the basket. In the LSU game, we had 24 shots inside the 3-point line that we missed. We gotta be able to make some of those. … We got to be able to make those plays. … We’ve gotta be able to in certain situations to be able to put the ball in the basket at a higher level.”
» Donovan on a surging Arkansas team: “They’re very, very good in transition. They have really good speed. One of the things I’ve always loved about MIke’s teams, they’re a really good passing team and [they] move the ball very well. Some of those guys now are a lot older. … They have a lot of depth and guys they’ll use. There are a lot of things you have to be ready for in every game, but it’s not anything where we say we have to totally change how we play.”
» Donovan on Bobby Portis taking his game to another level: “For him, he got a chance and experience to play quite a bit as a freshman. I thought he had a great year last year. Clearly, he’s one of the best frontcourt players in the league this year. He can do it inside and out. His versatility is really good, and Mike gives him the opportunity to step away from the basket and shoot. They also post him some.”