No. 25 Florida faces hot Arkansas in SEC matchup (Dec 29, 2016)
Two hot-starting SEC teams collide Thursday night when No. 25 Florida visits Bud Walton Arena to take on the streaking Arkansas Razorbacks and preseason conference player of the year Moses Kingsley.
At 11-1, Arkansas is off to its best 12-game start under coach Mike Anderson. The Razorbacks have responded to their only loss of the season -- 85-71 at Minnesota on Nov. 22 -- with eight straight victories, their longest win streak in the last six years.
The Gators (9-3) have played the tougher schedule, though, with two of their three losses coming against No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 5 Duke. Florida followed its loss to the Blue Devils by losing to Florida State on Dec. 11 but bounced back with consecutive blowout wins over Charlotte and Arkansas-Little Rock.
Florida has won the last five meetings with Arkansas but might not be at full strength in Thursday's matchup. Junior center John Egbunu, the team's leading rebounder, is considered a game-day decision. Egbunu has sat out the last two games with a hamstring injury and will be missed as the Gators try to battle Kingsley in the paint.
Kingsley is averaging 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He is one of four Razorbacks averaging double figures in points and tied for third in the SEC in rebounding. Egbunu is fifth in the SEC in rebounding.
If the Gators are forced to sink into the paint to control Kingsley, the Razorbacks have sharp-shooters on the outside to take advantage. Dusty Hannahs and Daryl Macon have combined to hit 43 3-pointers this season for the Razorbacks, who are coming off what Anderson called his team's most-complete performance in a 90-56 win over Sam Houston State on Dec. 22.
"I was very proud of our guys, thought they came out with unbelievable energy and it just went throughout the whole game," Anderson told reporters after the win over Sam Houston State.
"Probably the most complete performance we've had this year, and I say that because we did all the little things defensively. Even from an offensive standpoint, I didn't think we got stagnant, had great ball movement, and got Moses involved."
Kingsley and Macon each had 17 points.
Florida, which had struggled scoring from beyond the 3-point arc, hit 16 3-pointers in its win over Arkansas-Little Rock last week.
"I guess I can't complain any more about not making shots beyond the arc," Gators coach Mike White quipped to reporters about his team's suddenly hot hand from beyond the arc. "We got that fixed, right?"
Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen leads the Gators in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game. Junior forward Devin Robinson has been the team's most consistent outside threat, hitting 42.3 percent of his 3-point shots and is averaging 12.4 points per game.
The two teams met most recently in last season's SEC tournament, with the Gators overcoming a 33-point outburst from Hannahs to knock off the Razorbacks 68-61.
Arkansas is 6-4 at home against ranked teams under Anderson.