Gators face road test at Arkansas

No. 10 Florida tied the school record with its 24th consecutive home win on Wednesday. On Saturday, the Gators travel to face Arkansas, one of the three schools in the country that holds a longer active home winning streak. Florida knows all about the streak, too, suffering a blowout loss in Fayetteville last season.

Florida came into its game at Arkansas last season ranked as the No. 2 team in the country. Players realize now that they bought into the hype too much before their trip to Fayetteville, but if they didn't realize it before tipoff, they did soon after. Minutes into the game, Florida was facing a double-digit deficit. Midway through the first half, Arkansas raced out to a 36-13 lead.

The Gators settled in and outscored the Razorbacks by six points in the second half, but the damage was done in Florida's 80-69 loss. Eleven months later, Arkansas still hasn't lost at home. The last time it did was February 28, 2012 in a two-point loss to Ole Miss.

"It's a great place to play," Billy Donovan said. "They get great fan support. There's a lot of enthusiasm there. It's one of those arenas that it's well lit. It's a good environment. It's just a good place to play. Even though they've had such a long home winning streak here the last couple of years, traditionally, it's always been a tough place to win at."

It's difficult to judge Arkansas based on its schedule so far this season and even last year. Away from Bud Walton Arena, the Razorbacks can struggle. That was evident on Wednesday when Arkansas dropped its Southeastern Conference opener at Texas A&M by 16 points. It was the Razorbacks' first true road game outside of Arkansas this season.

But when they play in Fayetteville, they look like an elite team.

"They're a different team at home," Florida center Patric Young said. "Coach Donovan says they're a top 10 team at home. I don't know what it is, but when they're there, they're a completely different team. We have to prepare for that. We can't take them lightly like we did last year. We have to be ready for the first punch they might throw at us, react and stay together."

This year, Arkansas has 11 players averaging double-digit minutes. The Razorbacks use their depth to push the tempo and try to play an up-tempo game. It's the same thing Florida wants to do, but with Casey Prather (knee) out and Scottie Wilbekin (ankle) and Patric Young (knee) questionable, the Gators will be short on bodies.

With important defenders like that trio limited or out, the Gators will have a difficult time with an Arkansas offense that thrives in Fayetteville.

"Traditionally they've shot the ball very well at home," Donovan said. "They've scored exceptionally well at home.

With Young limited, Florida will be challenged by Arkansas freshman big man Bobby Portis. The 6-10 former McDonald's All-American is averaging a team-high 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. Guard Rashad Madden is averaging 10.3 points.

"Because of their depth of playing 11 guys double-figure minutes, it's kind of like they can see who's playing well together and make adjustments," Donovan said.


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