Published: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 5:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 5:24 p.m.
Florida coach Billy Donovan ripped David Lee after a lackadaisical effort against Florida State last weekend.
Lee responded with his most complete game of the season Saturday.
The senior forward had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists to help the Gators beat Arkansas 82-74.
"I was hard on David, but for him to come back with the intensity level, enthusiasm and emotion that he did, I'm very proud of him," Donovan said.
Lee, who had a season-low four points and two rebounds in a loss to the Seminoles, was 6-of-7 from the floor against the Razorbacks and helped shoulder the burden of playing without leading scorer Matt Walsh.
"Coach Donovan had every right to call me out. I'm a senior, a team captain, and if I don't produce I need to be benched," Lee said. "I needed to step up, especially with us being short-handed."
The Gators (9-3, 1-0) won their fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference opener.
The Razorbacks (13-2, 1-1), meanwhile, looked nothing like the team that was off to its best start since the glory days of the early 1990s. They had 13 turnovers and just nine assists. They also played poor defense, allowing Florida to shoot 78 percent in the second half and nearly 60 percent for the game.
"We were confident we could come in here and steal one," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "We thought Florida might have a little bit of a letdown without Walsh, but that wasn't true. They stepped it up."
Anthony Roberson scored 15 points for Florida, and teammate Lee Humphrey added 10 points and five assists _ much of his numbers coming in a pivotal 12-0 run in the second half.
Leading 45-40 with about 14 minutes to play, Humphrey started the spurt with a 3-pointer. He then had assists on consecutive possessions _ getting the ball to Chris Richard for a dunk and finding Lee for a reverse layup _ that pushed the lead to 12.
Humphrey hit another trey from the corner, and Al Horford capped the run with a layup.
Arkansas cut the lead to 78-72 with 32.9 seconds to play, but the Gators hit four of six free throws to seal the victory.
Ronnie Brewer led the Razorbacks with 20 points, and teammate Eric Ferguson added 16.
"It was frustrating a little bit, but I credit my guys because they didn't give up," Ferguson said. "They had a big lead, and we kept going and kept fighting."
Florida finished 27-of-38 from the free throw line, helping overcome a sub-par game from beyond the arc (5 of 13).
Lee accounted for much of the inside scoring and aggressive play. He scored most of his points in the paint, and his assists came when he got doubled down low and passed to open teammates.
It was a big improvement from his game against Florida State. Donovan criticized Lee and demanded more from him, especially with Walsh out at least until next month with a high ankle sprain.
Donovan said Lee responded the way he had hoped.
"He's about all the right things, but he's got to take his emotional level, his passion, his intensity has got to be better than everybody else on the team because he's a senior," Donovan said. "I didn't see that against FSU. I saw it tonight."
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