UF's strong second half puts away Razorbacks


Florida guard Mike Rosario drives against Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell during Florida's 71-54 victory over Arkansas at the O'Connell Center on Saturday.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 8:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:53 a.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan isn't big on payback. But senior forward Erik Murphy felt a sense of satisfaction shortly after UF's 71-54 win over Arkansas at the O'Connell Center.

“We wanted to let them know that we were the better team,” Murphy said. “That first game at their place, they came out on fire and we weren't ready. That's not us.”

Florida avenged its 80-69 loss at Arkansas on Feb. 5 with muscle and hustle. The Gators outscored Arkansas 42-18 in the paint. Although Arkansas outrebounded Florida 41-38, the Gators finished with more second-chance points (18-16).

“That was a big emphasis, getting the ball in the paint whether it's on drives, on post feeds, whatever it is,” Murphy said. “When we get the ball in the paint, we were more efficient on offense.”




Senior guard Mike Rosario led four Florida players in double figures with 15 points. Center Patric Young added 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Kenny Boynton and Murphy each had 12 points.

Coty Clarke led Arkansas (17-10, 8-6 SEC) with 18 points, but the Razorbacks were unable to get off to the same hot start from the perimeter that they did in upsetting the Gators three-and-a-half weeks ago. Arkansas shot just 36.2 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from 3-point range.

Defensively, Florida held an opponent to under 60 points for the 19th time this season. The Gators smothered Arkansas guard B.J. Young, limiting the sophomore guard to just three points on 0-for-8 shooting. Young, who entered the game third in the SEC in scoring at 16.5 points per game, was held without a field goal for the first time in his career.

Donovan credited junior guard Scottie Wilbekin for blanketing Young throughout the game.

“Scottie did a good job cutting off angles, and I thought when he did get around us, we were able to provide a little bit of help,” Donovan said.

The Gators (22-4, 12-2 SEC) extended their SEC lead to two games with four left to play. But it came with a price. Freshman guard Michael Frazier II suffered a concussion in the second half when his head hit Wilbekin's knee diving for a loose ball. Frazier is doubtful for UF's next game Tuesday night at Tennessee.

“Obviously, there are baseline tests that they will do on him,” Donovan said. “I don't know how long he will be out for.”

Florida didn't have its best night from the perimeter (8 of 23 from 3-point range, 34.8 percent) but didn't need to with the production from Young and Murphy. With Arkansas' defense hugging the 3-point line, Florida also got some early driving baskets from Boynton and Rosario.

“That was the whole objective, us being aggressive off the bounce, and getting into the paint,” Rosario said.

The Gators were outscored 24-16 in the paint in their loss Tuesday night at Missouri.

“I think you just try to learn from the Missouri game,” Donovan said. “That was a great thing. When people think attacking the paint, or points in the paint, they ultimately think throwing the ball inside to the post.”

Donovan said he felt the Gators could have even scored more in the paint if not for some missed transition layups by Boynton, Rosario and Casey Prather.

“But at least we had a mentality of trying to attack a little bit more,” Donovan said.

Young and Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell each picked up two first-half fouls. So did Wilbekin. Though Florida led by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Gators led just 32-28 at halftime after a putback from Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams.

But the Gators started the second half with an 18-5 run, extending their lead to 50-33 on a 3-pointer by Frazier with 13:25 remaining.

“Billy does a great job with his team, and those guys were ready,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “They had a little something to prove, and obviously I thought in the second half they really did.”

Florida kept pouring it on offensively. A Rosario 3-pointer put Florida ahead 57-37 with 10:31 left, and Florida maintained its double-digit lead for the rest of the game.

“More than any game, I didn't worry about our team coming out to play,” Boynton said. “I knew we were going to have energy coming out to play them and losing to Missouri the last game.”

The Gators have yet to lose two games in a row this season.

“It says we're able to regroup,” Boynton said. “Missouri, I didn't think we even should have lost that game, but it happens. We've just got to move forward.”

With the win and Alabama's overtime loss earlier in the day, Florida moved a step closer to its fourth outright SEC title in school history. Florida has previously won outright SEC basketball titles in 1989, 2007 and 2011.

“I'm not going to and our guys aren't going to sit down here and say, ‘Wow, let's take a deep breath,' ” Donovan said. “We got a heck of a challenge Tuesday night (at Tennessee), I know that.”

FREE THROWS: Florida hosted a family from Sandy Hook Elementary School for the Arkansas game. The family attended UF's pregame shootaround Saturday afternoon. “I really appreciated our guys getting involved with them and shot around with them and did some things with their kids,” Donovan said. “If there was some way we could maybe bring a smile to their face, that was a good day today.” … Junior forward Will Yeguete took part in pregame drills, including going through layup lines, but was not available for the game. “This is part of his recovery, getting him back in layups, jogging, running, shooting,” Donovan said. “He's starting to do some of this light work now and every day there is no swelling, or no discomfort, they push him a little bit further.” … Florida's announced crowd of 12,609 was its fourth straight sellout and fifth sellout of the season.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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