Fresh off its second league loss in five games, No. 4/5 Florida Gators basketball (22-4, 12-2 SEC) extended its lead in the Southeastern Conference standings to two games with a dominant 71-54 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (17-10, 8-6 SEC) on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida, in its second meeting with Arkansas during regular season play for the first time in program history, earned a measure of revenge for the initial showdown in which the Razorbacks upset the Gators 80-69 on Feb. 5 in Fayetteville, AR.
Four Florida players scored in double figures, all of whom gave complete efforts throughout the contest. Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way with a team-high 15 points, but junior center Patric Young made a bigger impact with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
Ensuring that Arkansas did not take the upper hand out of the gate like it did two weeks ago, Florida opened the contest on a 7-0 run but was soon tied with the Razorbacks at 8-8 after the visitors matched the Gators’ intensity with a 8-1 scoring stretch including seven-straight points from forward Marshawn Powell.
Minutes later, Powell found his way to the bench as Florida junior F Casey Prather entered the game and drew a pair of charges on the big man. The Gators completed a 9-0 run to take a 23-13 lead before being given a taste of their own medicine.
Young left the court with 5:53 to play in the first half after committing his second foul, and Arkansas took advantage with a 6-0 run to get within four of the hosts, a margin that would hold until halftime.
The second half began in similar fashion or Florida, which used an 11-1 run – again spurred by a three-pointer from senior G Kenny Boynton – to stretch its lead out to 14 points as Powell picked up his third and fourth fouls of the contest. Young, who turned a missed three into a two-handed jam early in the first half, did the same to a missed fastbreak layup in the second half that concluded the stretch.
“It is a total choice by him. It is a mentality. It is a commitment. It is every single day working like that, the consistency of each and every day going out and giving that kind of effort,” head coach Billy Donovan said of Young’s play. “If he gives that kind of effort all the time and plays like that all the time, he’s going to have 10 rebounds, he’s going to have 12-14 points. As big and strong as he is, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t demand the ball every single time when he gets down inside.”
The Gators soon saw their lead balloon to a game-high 20 points as freshman G Michael Frazier II and Rosario hit a pair of treys. Between those drained threes, Frazier left the court with the help of trainers after his head bent backward off a teammate’s knee when he dove for a loose ball. He was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return.
Florida maintained its momentum down the stretch as it pulled out the 17-point victory by dominating Arkansas 42-18 in the paint. Donovan made sure the Gators took a majority of their shots inside the three-point line; they complied by attempting just 23 of 62 total field goals from beyond the arc.
“I thought we should have had a lot more points than that [inside]. Think about the amount of layups we missed tonight,” he said. “We should have had a lot more points in around the basket then we did, but at least we had the mentality that we were trying to attack a little bit more.”
Forward Coty Clarke led the Razorbacks and all scorers with 18 points (on perfect 8-of-8 shooting) and seven boards. Powell finished with seven points and two boards.
Boynton and junior forward Erik Murphy registered 12 points each and combined for 11 rebounds on the evening. Boynton also passed Andrew Moten (1,572) on Florida’s career list for field goals attempted after taking 14 shots on Saturday and increasing his total to 1,576. He is two attempts away from passing Stacey Poole (1,578) for first in the school record books.
UF is faced with another quick turnaround as it will hop on a plane to face Tennessee on Tuesday at 9 p.m. in a game that will air live on ESPN. The Gators will enter the contest with just six players in their primary rotation as Donovan announced after Saturday’s game that Frazier has already been ruled out.
“He’s out. I don’t know when he’ll be back. He’s got a concussion. He was knocked out on the floor,” Donovan said. “I don’t know how long he will be out for. It’s basically, once he passes all his baseline tests, they slowly [integrate] him back into practice.”
In order to fill out Florida’s rotation, Donovan will play two of the team’s other three freshmen guards – Dillon Graham, Braxton Ogbueze and/or DeVon Walker.