Florida coach Billy Donovan may not believe in payback, but another loss to Arkansas certainly wouldn’t sit well and could cost the Gators sole possession of the SEC lead.
Hosting the Razorbacks this time should make a major difference.
The fifth-ranked Gators are coming off just their second conference loss and now face the only other team to deal them one as Arkansas visits Gainesville on Saturday night.
Florida (21-4, 11-2) turned in perhaps its worst performance of the season in an 80-69 loss at Arkansas on Feb. 5, ending its five-game winning streak in the series. That remains the Gators’ only loss by more than six points, and it came to a team which had been .500 in conference play.
Donovan doesn’t think beating the Razorbacks (17-9, 8-5) for the ninth straight time at home would soften the blow of that defeat.
“They beat us handily. That’s behind us,” he told the team’s official website. “It’s not like, all of a sudden, we win the game and we get the Fayetteville game back. It doesn’t work like that. That game is lost and I’ve never been a big believer in payback. What do you get back?”
Florida leads the conference by one game on Alabama, which visits LSU earlier in the day.
“That’s what’s important,” forward Erik Murphy said. “One of our goals as a team is to win a championship. We can’t control what’s already happened, but we still have control of who wins the conference.”
The Gators didn’t help themselves Tuesday, squandering a 13-point, second-half lead to fall 63-60 at Missouri.
A return home may be just what they need since they’re 12-0 there, outscoring opponents by an average of 27.4 points while hitting 50.3 percent from the floor. None of those games were decided by fewer than 13 points.
Florida cruised to a 75-43 win over the Razorbacks on Jan. 22, 2011, in the teams’ last meeting in Gainesville.
Kenny Boynton had 20 points in that game, but the Gators’ leading scorer managed half that total against them earlier this month while going 4 for 11 from the field. He’s struggled in February, averaging 10.8 points and shooting 34.4 percent.
Boynton and Murphy each connected on 2 of 9 from 3-point range Tuesday while combining for 19 points. Murphy was 1 of 6 from beyond the arc against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas hasn’t won in Gainesville since Jan. 3, 1996, and enters this visit 1-6 on the road. However, the Razorbacks have won three in a row overall for their longest winning streak in SEC play since a five-game run Jan. 28-Feb. 10, 2010.
BJ Young kept them rolling Thursday, when he hit a spinning layup with 6 seconds left to secure a 62-60 home win over Georgia.
“We didn’t play our best,” coach Mike Anderson said. “But we found a way to win. Our defense was outstanding. We need to play better but I am happy with the win.”
Young leads the Razorbacks with 16.2 points per game, but he was limited to eight Thursday. He had a career-high 31 points in a 98-68 defeat to Florida last season and scored a team-best 13 in the latest matchup.
Anthlon Bell may be needed to have another surprise performance like he did Thursday, scoring a season-high 17 points off the bench. The freshman guard, who averages 4.0 points on the season, hadn’t mustered a point in the previous five games, including the meeting with Florida.