Gators preparing for Arkansas’ pace

Arkansas brings the conference’s best scoring average to Gainesville on Saturday, and the Razorbacks do it because of the pace that they play at.

Arkansas wants to run. When it gets a rebound, the ball is sprinted up the floor by one of the guards, trying to catch the opponents off guard. The Razorbacks push the ball up the floor as fast as possible, creating extra opportunities on offense that give have helped them average 81.7 points per game, 6.8 points more than second place LSU.

For some teams, the pace Arkansas wants to play is an adjustment. Florida isn’t one of those teams. Florida coach Billy Donovan has been encouraging point guards Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill to push the basketball up the floor and play with a faster pace, and it should be easy for them to do that on Saturday (TV: CBS, 1 p.m.) against the Razorbacks.

“At this point in time, you’re going to have two teams that play to their identity,” Donovan said. “They have a system in place that Mike has incorporated for his time there, and he has a belief in the way he plays. We have an identity and something we try to play to as well. Going into a game like that, you have to get prepared for a lot of different things.

“They’re very, very good in transition. They have really good speed. There are a lot of things you have to be ready for in every game, but it’s not anything where we say we have to totally change how we play.”

The Florida players got excited when they were watching film for Saturday’s game. The quick tempo means the Gators could be in for a high-scoring affair, and the Florida offense could use a game like that to build confidence.

“They’re a very fast pace team,” Florida guard Eli Carter said. “They play the way that we want to play. So it will be a very exciting game, a very powerful game. We just got to come ready to go.”

The Razorbacks have two of the top scorers in the SEC -- forward Bobby Portis (17.5) and guard Michael Qualls (16.5). Portis leads the SEC in points, field goal percentage (56.1 percent) and is fourth in the league with 8.5 rebounds per game.

He showed potential last year as a freshman but elected to stay in school and put up a strong sophomore season. The decision worked, as Portis has been one of the best players in the SEC so far this year.

“He got a chance and experience to play quite a bit as a freshman,” Donovan said. “I thought he had a great year last year. Clearly, he’s one of the best frontcourt players in the league this year. He can do it inside and out. His versatility is really good and Mike gives him the opportunity to step away from the basket and shoot. They also post him some. He, like most freshman, made that biggest jump from his freshman to sophomore year. I think you can throw Portis into that category.”


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