Razorbacks Go Gator Hunting

Arkansas will reinsert sophomore Michael Qualls - the team's leading scorer - back into the starting line-up on Saturday at noon when the Razorbacks (11-3, 0-1) host No. 10 Florida (12-2, 1-0) at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas is hoping that getting back home and getting Michael Qualls back in the starting line-up will get things going back in the right direction.

  The Razorbacks (11-3, 0-1) will be looking for their 24th-straight home win while hosting banged-up No. 10 Florida (12-2, 1-0) – winners of eight straight - at noon in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

  Arkansas was riding a seven-game winning streak before crashing back to the ground with a humbling 69-53 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday.

  ""I think our guys were disappointed, but I don't think they were discouraged," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought they played hard, I just thought, you know, I thought nerves were going. I thought we missed some shots early on, and I thought that just triggered on other parts of the game.

  "So, obviously, they were feeling pretty good about themselves going in there, and they were disappointed in their performance, but as I told them, that's just one game," Anderson added. "It's a game that hopefully they'll learn a little bit more about themselves, the punching we talked about that's going to take place.

  "One team's going to punch, the other team's going to punch, you've got to be able to punch back," Anderson continued. "Part of that's adversity. How do you respond to it? We responded from the last time we lost to Gonzaga and California, so I look forward to us responding in a positive way knowing that we're a much better basketball team than was on display the other night."

Arkansas, which split two games last season with the Gators, will likely have its largest crowd of the season when Florida arrives and that's certainly something that can't hurt.

"...The comfort comes from you're playing at a place that you're very familiar with," Anderson said. "You're sleeping in your own bed, and of course, hopefully there will be 20,000 fans there, and they should get a chance to see ... It's an opportunity for us to play against one of the better teams in the country.

"Now that we're in conference play, the competition is going to be just as good or even better than we are," Anderson added. "I think whoever plays well that day, that's the team that's going to probably succeed."

Qualls (12.7) is Arkansas' leading scorer, but he has been coming off the bench and his play has suffered.

He will be back in the starting line-up according to Anderson, whose team won 80-69 over Florida in Bud Walton Arena last season.

"It's time for it," noted Anderson, whose team will follow up Florida with a Tuesday night 8 p.m. home game with No. 14 Kentucky.

Qualls and 6-10 freshman Bobby Portis (12.4) – the Razorbacks' top two scorers – were a combined 4-of-22 from the field in the loss at Texas A&M.

"It humbles you," Anderson said. "You think you're playing well, you think you're a pretty good basketball team. We won so many games in a row. Now all the sudden you get smacked in the face. To me, this will be the true test of our team, what kind of team we're going to be. Because we had some adversity, ok. How do we respond to it? Especially those guys."

Those two guys are likely to be joined in playing significant minutes by 6-6 junior Alandise Harris (10.4), 6-5 junior point guard Rashad Madden (10.3) and 6-5 senior Coty Clarke (8.2).

Florida may without its top two scorers in 6-6 senior forward Casey Prather (17.0) and 6-2 senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (12.3), who both were injured in Wednesday night's 74-58 home win over South Carolina.

The Gators, who have wins over Kansas and Memphis at home and losses to Wisconsin and Uconn, had only six scholarship players at Friday's practice.

"We'll go in there and do the best job we can with what we've got, see who's available'' Florida head coach Billy Donovan said.

Wilbiken has not praticed since he had 17 points before rolling his ankle in Wednesday's game.

"He felt like he could do some stuff today,'' Donovan said. "It was a trainer's decision to hold him out. I would say right now he is questionable. He'll probably give it some kind of try.''

Prather suffered a knee bruise and is out of the game per Donovan while 6-9, 240-pound Florida big man Patric Young (10.9, 6.0) is also hobbling.

"General wear and tear I guess you could say," Young told the Florida media Friday. " A lot of big guys deal with tendinitis and this is something I'll have to deal with the rest of my career. I expect to be full go once the buzzer sounds, I think I'll be ready to go.''

Anderson believes those aforementioned players will be on the floor.

"That's how we're preparing,"Anderson said. "I expect them to play."

Florida has impressed Anderson this season.

"They're a pressure team, they're an up-tempo team, they've got a lot of different weapons," Anderson said. "They will press, and they're a good shooting team, so we've got to really be on our best defensive behavior, so to speak."





Michael Qualls claps after forcing Kenny Boynton into a turnover last season.


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