Florida will lean on Tyus


Alex Tyus is beginning to get comfortable in his move from center to power forward.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 5:02 p.m.

Florida junior Alex Tyus prepared most of the summer for a position change.

Facts

At a glance

Who: Florida Gators (12-5, 1-2 SEC) at Arkansas Razorbacks (8-9, 1-1 SEC)
When: Thursday, 9 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena
TV: ESPN
Gainesville Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Fr. 14.6 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Erving Walker 5-8 So. 12.1 ppg, 5.0 apg
F Dan Werner 6-8 Sr. 6.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F Alex Tyus 6-8 So. 12.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg
C Vernon Macklin 6-10 Jr. 10.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg

KEY RESERVES

F Chandler Parsons 6-9 Jr. 11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg
G Ray Shipman 6-4 So. 3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-9 Fr. 4.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg

ARKANSAS PROBABLE STARTERS

G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 So. 18.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
G Courtney Fortson 5-11 So. 17.0 ppg, 7.3 apg
G Marcus Britt 6-3 Jr. 4.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F Marshawn Powell 6-7 Fr. 15.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg
C Mike Washington 6-9 Sr. 13.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg

KEY RESERVES

G Steffan Welsh 6-3 Sr. 6.5 ppg, 3.2 apg
G Julysses Nobles 6-1 Fr. 4.7 ppg, 3.8 apg
F Jemal Farmer 6-5 Jr. 8.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg


THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Defensive intensity
Florida brought better defensive intensity and focus in its 72-58 win over LSU last Saturday. Of course, the Gators were at home facing one of the worst offensive teams in the league. Arkansas has more offensive firepower on the perimeter and underneath the basket. Look for Florida to mix zone, man and press in an effort to keep the Razorbacks off balance.

2. Macklin's production
Florida junior center Vernon Macklin finally stayed out of foul trouble and posted 14 points and eight rebounds against LSU. The Gators are 9-1 when Macklin scores in double-figures and 3-4 when he's held under 10 points. Macklin will have a tough matchup with Arkansas senior center Michael Washington and will need to keep his fouls in check again to stay on the floor and stay productive.

3. Shadowing Clarke
Arkansas sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke ranks second in the SEC in scoring (18.4 ppg), first in 3-point shooting percentage (48.8 percent) and first in 3-pointers made (61). Look for the Gators to extend their defense out beyond the 3-point line in an effort to limit Clarke's effectiveness. Florida leads the SEC in 3-point shooting defense, holding teams to 28.3 percent from beyond the arc.

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can the Florida starting backcourt of freshman Kenny Boynton and sophomore Erving Walker keep up their hot shooting in SEC play?
2. How well can Florida limit the 3-point shooting of Arkansas sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke?
3. Can Florida get off to a good start on the road and take a tough visiting crowd at Bud Walton Arena out of the game?

Cometo Gatorsports.com after the game to read Kevin Brockway's answers.

But even Tyus admitted the switch from center to power forward wasn't initially as smooth as he expected.

"I feel like I've been getting more comfortable, maybe (after) starting off a little slow," Tyus said. "Just trying to get back into the swing of things. Mainly I've been realizing what I need to do to help the team win and starting to realize my role."

Tyus has put together the most consistent stretch of his career. In his last eight games, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from St. Louis is averaging 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.

Florida will need Tyus to continue that production Thursday night in a tough Southeastern Conference road test at Arkansas.

"We're really excited for the challenge," Tyus said.

Tyus hit his first two career 3-pointers last week against Kentucky, but it's been an improved mid-range game that's allowed him to become a more versatile scorer. Tyus said he took about 400-500 jumpers from 12-17 feet over the summer in an effort to improve his shooting range.

"I knew that I was going to be doing a lot of pick and popping and things like that," Tyus said. "And I felt like it would really help our team a lot this year."

Defensively, Tyus prepared for the challenges of guarding more on the perimeter after battling players underneath the basket last season. Tonight, Tyus will match up against 6-7 Arkansas freshman Marshawn Powell, who is among the SEC leaders in scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) this season.

"It's totally different, now guarding guys out on the perimeter," Tyus said. "I have to fight through screens which I've never done in game situations."

Last season, Tyus worked mainly in the low block and was often outmatched by taller and stronger players.

"It was tough for everybody, him playing out of position, me playing power forward," Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons said. "It was something that we had to do and it's just something that's a luxury now, being able to play our own positions."

Parsons said Tyus' improved mid-range game has been an asset to Florida's offense this season.

"He's been able to step off the block a little bit, face up," Parsons said. "He can knock down jump shots and he's being aggressive still, he's going to the glass and he's able to defend people more his size and his position."

Tyus said he's glad he changed his mind in late April after he initially announced he wanted to transfer from Florida. The position change from center to power forward played a big factor in his decision to return.

"We have a tremendous opportunity this year," Tyus said. "I just like the whole process and the opportunity our team has and I want to keep it going."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5053 or at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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