Hungry Gators open jaws wide

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Arkansas' Coty Clarke is surrounded by Florida's defense in the first half of the game Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks upset the Gators, winning 80-69.
Photo by Samantha Baker
Arkansas' Coty Clarke is surrounded by Florida's defense in the first half of the game Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks upset the Gators, winning 80-69.

— The Arkansas Razorbacks have a pretty good idea what is awaiting them in the O’Connell Center tonight when they play No. 5 Florida.

Some highly motivated Gators.

“We already took one from them, so we know they’re going to be ready for us and amped up to play us again,” Arkansas guard BJ Young said. “We’re just going to try and bring the same energy that we played with at home, take it on the road and see what happens.”

Arkansas is 15-1 at home this season, highlighted by an 80-69 victory over then-No. 2 Florida on Feb. 5 that ended the Gators’ 10-game winning streak. The Razorbacks, with a team-high 13 points from Young, hit 14 of their first 18 shots and led by as many as 27 points in the second half.

“We have a very strong desire to beat them,” Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “We’re ahead in the SEC, we got to keep winning to stay ahead.

“Obviously, we’re going to be ready for them because they beat us pretty good in Arkansas. We all have to be more locked in as a team, because I don’t think we were playing defense to our potential that game. We’re going to be ready to play with passion and defend the right way and play hard.”

The Razorbacks have lost eight consecutive games at the O’Connell Center since Arkansas’ defending national championship team won there 94-85 in 1995.

Florida is 12-0 at home this season. The last team visiting team to win at the O’Connell Center was No. 1 Kentucky, which beat the Gators 74-59 last season en route to winning the national championship.

“This is the ultimate challenge,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said.

Arkansas (17-9, 8-5 SEC) could give its NCAA Tournament hopes a huge boost by beating Florida (21-4, 11-2) a second time, though Anderson said he hasn’t talked to his players about the postseason.

“All we talk about is day-today, just trying to get better,” Anderson said. “I want these guys to always stay focused on the task at hand, and that’s get better every day. That’s the only thing we can control. You win games, all that stuff will take care of itself.”

Florida Coach Billy Donovan said he’s never been a believer in payback for a loss.

“We had a chance to play the game up in Fayetteville, they beat us pretty handily,” Donovan said. “To me, that’s something that is behind us right now. It’s not like if we all of the sudden win this game,we get the Fayetteville game back.

“It doesn’t work like that. That game is a loss. This game is the next most important thing. I don’t see the point out of payback.”

But Florida guard Kenny Boynton had tonight’s game on his mind immediately after the Gators’ loss at Arkansas.

“We’ll see them again, and it’ll be a different story,” Boynton said outside the Gators’ locker room in Walton Arena. “I promise you, we’ll come out and play harder next time we see them. We just have to learn from this game.”

The Gators also should have extra motivation after losing Missouri 63-60 on Tuesday night. Florida seemingly was in control in the second half with a 13-point lead.

“We have to learn from the last game,” Donovan said. “We have to look at things we can do better. That’s the most important thing.”

The Razorbacks beat Georgia 62-60 on Thursday night in Walton Arena for their third consecutive SEC victory. They’ve won five of their past six games.

“We’re finding ways to win,” Anderson said. “That’s what good teams do.”

Young said the Razorbacks have some extra motivation tonight, too.

“We want to show it wasn’t a fluke,” he said of the Razorbacks’ victory over the Gators.

Arkansas won its last road game, 83-75 at Auburn on Feb. 13, when Young scored 25 points. That victory made the Razorbacks 1-8 away from home this season, but Donovan said he’s not putting much stock in Arkansas’ road struggles.

“Sometimes people look at trends, but trends aren’t guaranteed or something that’s always going to happen,” Donovan said. “The one thing you want to look at is that they’ve progressed.

“Mike has done a really good job with this team. I expect [tonight] to be another challenge for us, regardless of where it’s being played, because they’ve gotten better as a team.” Information for this article was contributed by The Gainesville Sun.

Today’s game

ARKANSAS VS. NO. 5 FLORIDA WHEN 6 p.m. Central today WHERE O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.

RECORDS Arkansas 17-9, 8-5 SEC;

Florida 21-4, 11-2 SERIES Florida leads 15-11 TELEVISION ESPNU RADIO Razorback Sports Network

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/23/2013