Walsh's Absense Forces Gators To Shuffle Lineup

FAYETTEVILLE -- Florida may be without leading scorer Matt Walsh when the Gators host Arkansas for their Southeastern Conference opener, but coach Billy Donovan doesn't think that makes Florida a two-man team with All-SEC players Anthony Roberson and David Lee.

"Even with David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh healthy, we're going to need guys to step up," Donovan said. "It's not more responsibility or pressure falling on David Lee or Anthony Roberson because they are only two players.

"They can't do it all. They certainly have to pick up their game, as does the rest of the team."

Florida (8-3, 0-0) will have had more than a week to get used to Walsh's absence after he tore ankle ligaments in practice last Thursday.

Donovan said Florida will miss Walsh's leadership as much as his 16 points per game.

"One player or one guy is not a solution to losing a guy that's one of the best players in the league and an emotional leader," he said.

Florida has also been hurt by the loss of 6-9 junior forward Adrian Moss, who is sidelined with bulging discs in his back.

Lee, a 6-foot-9 senior forward who had 18 points and 9 rebounds in Florida's 73-68 win against Arkansas last season in Fayetteville, is averaging 12.5 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game.

Roberson is averaging a 15.5 points per game and shooting 53 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from the 3-point line.

Walsh will be out at least a month and the Gators lost their first game without him, 82-69, at Florida State on Saturday.

The loss made Florida 0-2 against its in-state rivals after a 72-65 home loss to Miami on Dec. 4 when the Gators were at full strength.

Donovan started 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Lee Humphrey in Walsh's place and he came up with a career-high 15 points, but the Gators were outmuscled several times in the post against the Seminoles.

Florida has seven freshmen and two sophomores on its roster and newcomers like 6-8 forward Corey Brewer, 6-0 guard Taureen Green and 6-8 forward Al Horford are averaging between 18 and 21 minutes per game.

Green has a team-high 41 assists but is shooting 33.3 percent from the field.

Horford is averaging 5.0 rebounds per game and Brewer is shooting 47 percent and is fourth on the team in scoring with 6.6 per game.

Cornelius Ingram, a two-sport player on a football scholarship, is a 6-4 freshman guard who Donovan said will see his minutes start to increase with Walsh out.

The freshman integration has been an up-and-down process, Donovan said, and a 10-0 run by Florida State just before halftime to pull away to a 13-point lead was caused in part by freshman mistakes.

"Anytime you're playing high level competition and you're relying on freshmen playing significant minutes for us, you have to allow them to play through some mistakes," Donovan said. "We've been fortunate that some freshman mistakes have been aggressiveness or being in the wrong place at wrong time.

"Their mistakes haven't been from a lack of effort."

Humphrey got some valuable experience as a freshman in 2004 when Christian Drejer bolted the team in February for a European pro contract.

Humphrey started 11 games, averaging 3.8 points in 19 minutes per game.

"We'll spread Matt's minutes through a couple guys," Donovan said. "I can't say his minutes are going to one guy."

With or without Walsh, Arkansas coach Stan Heath is plenty concerned about playing the Gators in Gainesville. The O'Connell Center, or "O-Dome", has developed a nasty reputation since Donovan started turning the program around in 1997.

"It's a vocal crowd always into the game," Heath said. "I really feel confident our team is up to the challenge of going down to Gainesville."

Florida led 39-32 at halftime and won 77-66 in Heath's first season. The game at Gainesville was a coming out party for then-freshman Jonathon Modica, who doubled his career high with 26 points on 7 of 12 shooting (5 of 6 from the 3-point line).

"They get off to good starts," Heath said. "So it will be important for us to get off to an equally good start."

Containing Lee will be a priority with Walsh out and Arkansas may be able to double team him a little more with one of the Gators' best perimeter players out.

After having to throw former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones on Lee, Heath now has a trio of freshmen in 7-foot Steven Hill, 6-10 Darian Townes and 6-7 Charles Thomas to match up with Lee along with 6-8 junior Rashard Sullivan.

"We have more size to compete against him," Heath said. "Him being a senior and us having freshmen out there, experience will be a factor.

"We have enough bodies to make it more difficult. (We) probably can't stop him, but we can at least slow him down a little bit."

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