Walker helps UF win on road

Florida's Erving Walker drives around Arkansas' Marcus Britt during the second half in Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:23 p.m.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In a road game that Florida needed, sophomore guard Erving Walker and the rest of the Gators delivered.


Three questions, three answers

1. Can the Florida starting backcourt of freshman Kenny Boynton and sophomore Erving Walker keep up their hot shooting in SEC play?
Walker stayed hot, making 7-of-12 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range to put together a career-high 27-point performance. Boynton, on the other hand, was just 5-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-7 from 3-point range. But Walker provided enough production to lift the Gators to the road win.

2. How well can Florida limit the 3-point shooting of Arkansas sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke?
Clarke was held in check early before heating up in the second half. He finished with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. But Florida did a decent job late in the game denying Clarke the basketball and forcing him into rushed shot attempts.

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?
Florida shot just 28.6 percent in the first half but still held a 28-26 halftime lead. But in a hostile environment, Florida executed well late during a 9-0 run that extended its lead 64-56 with 2:53 left in the game.

Walker scored a career-high 27 points and Florida was able to muscle its way to a 71-66 win over Arkansas before 14,173 at Bud Walton Arena.

Walker had a terrific night, making 7-of-12 shots from the floor and 5-of-6 3-point attempts while dishing four assists with no turnovers.

"I've just been doing the same thing that I've been focusing on lately, just getting open looks and focusing on shots that work to my strength and not to my weakness," Walker said.

Kenny Boynton added 13 points for Florida, and Alex Tyus posted his eighth career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Florida out-rebounded Arkansas 41-29 and scored 12 second-half points off 17 offensive rebounds.

"Our frontcourt struggled to score tonight but really did a good job getting us offensive rebounds," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Said Tyus: "We just wanted to come out active, flying around and go after the ball."

Rotnei Clarke led four Arkansas players in double figures with 17 points. Freshman Marshawn Powell scored 14 points, center Michael Washington scored 11 points, and point guard Courtney Fortson had 14 points and 11 assists.

Florida (13-5, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) evened its record in SEC play and will have a happy flight home Friday before facing South Carolina on Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

"It's huge for us, especially the way things started," Walker said. "But we can't afford to let up because we know South Carolina is a good team."

Florida led 67-58 when Walker hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 2:19 left. But Arkansas didn't go away. Fortson hit a 3-pointer to cut the Florida lead to 67-61. Then, after a Walker miss, Powell scored on an inside layup with 1:24 left that dwindled the Florida lead to 67-63.

Tyus was then called for a travel with 46.3 seconds left and one second on the shot clock. But Powell missed a 3-point attempt, and UF forward Chandler Parsons grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 30.3 seconds remaining.

Parsons made one of two free throws. After Fortson made one of two free throws at the other end, Walker made a pair of free throws with 19.3 seconds left to put the Gators ahead to stay, 70-64.

Walker scored 15 points in the first half, helping Florida overcome a cold-shooting start to take a 28-26 halftime lead.

"Erv was the first half for us," Boynton said.

Florida extended its lead to 34-26 early in the second half after Walker and Boynton hit back-to-back 3-pointers. But Arkansas answered with a 5-0 run, cutting the lead to 36-31 on a Washington free throw.

Tyus hit a bank shot to put the Gators back ahead 36-31, but the lead was short-lived. Fortson converted a three-point play, sinking a driving layup as he was fouled by UF's Ray Shipman to cut the lead to 36-34. Washington then scored on a putback of a Fortson miss to tie the score at 36.

Washington, though, was whistled for two quick fouls, including his crucial fourth foul with 11:25 remaining when he knocked Boynton out of bounds as he attempted to track down an offensive rebound.

It didn't affect the Razorbacks. After Boynton hit two free throws to put the Gators ahead 42-38, Arkansas rallied back. The Razorbacks took their first lead of the second half, 45-44, on another three-point play with 10:24 remaining. Clarke then heated up, hitting a jumper to put Arkansas ahead 47-46 and a 3-pointer to put the Razorbacks up 50-48.

Clarke stayed hot, making two more 3-pointers to keep the Razorbacks ahead, 56-55. But Florida responded with a 9-0 run, as Walker put Florida back ahead with two free throws, then made a 14-foot jumper to put Florida up 60-56. Junior center Vernon Macklin hit a baseline running shot on a feed from Walker to extend the lead to 62-56. After a Fortson miss, Boynton hit a 16-footer to give Florida a 64-56 lead.

"We had a really good defensive stretch where we held them to one shot in each possession," Donovan said.

Florida made just two of its first 12 shots in the game and missed several putbacks around the basket. Macklin and Boynton each picked up fouls within the first five-plus minutes of the game.

Walker helped snap Florida out of its early funk. His first 3-pointer of the game tied the score at 11. His second, a pull-up 3-pointer in transition, put the Gators ahead 16-13.

"He really bailed us out because he made some 3-pointers late in the shot clock for us," Donovan said.

Arkansas freshman Glenn Bryant then provided a spark off the bench for the Razorbacks. Bryant hit his first 3-pointer over the outstretched hand of Macklin to put Arkansas ahead 21-18. After Parsons made one of two free throws, Bryant made another 3-pointer to extend the Arkansas lead to 24-19.

Again, Florida turned to Walker to bring them back. After Tyus hit two free throws to cut the Arkansas lead to 24-21, Walker made his third 3-pointer of the half to tie the score at 24.

Powell answered with a dunk on a pretty feed from Fortson to put Arkansas back ahead 26-24. After Walker was fouled and made both free throws, Florida had two late defensive stands, forcing a Powell travel and getting a block from freshman Erik Murphy.

The Gators then held for the last shot. Walker delivered, hitting a floater from 11 feet with 3.3 seconds remaining to put the Gators ahead 28-26 at halftime. Walker finished the first half making all four of his shots from the floor and all four free throws.

"Erving is a guy who shoots it so deep, and what it's done is force defenders out to him and opened some lanes for him to drive," Donovan said. "Earlier in the season he was driving too deep in the lane or taking off-balance shots and trying to draw contact, but what he's doing now is stopping and pulling up and hitting floaters in the lane. Certainly he made some big shots for us."

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