Gators Win in Big Way

Powered by 28 points from sophomore guard Nick Calathes, Florida (16-2, 3-0 SEC) rolled off its 10th straight win after dismantling a struggling Arkansas team 80-65 in front of a crowd of 12,348 at the O'Connell Center Saturday.

Nick Calathes carried his team for most of the game, but he helped put the Gators ahead for good after hitting five of his first six shots for 14 points at the start of the second half – he went 4-for-4 from beyond the three-point line.

"My teammates did a great job finding me," said Calathes, who finished the day with 11 of 18 shooting, including 6-for-11 from three. "I guess it was my night for shooting, but Erving (Walker), Alex (Tyus) and Dan (Warner) made big shots too. Three-point shooting is a main part of our offense."

After a frustrating first half from beyond the three-point line (3-for-17), the Gators connected on eight of their 13 second half three-pointers.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said after Saturday's game that he felt his players were taking the same sort of shots in the second half, but for some reason the shots began to fall.

"We have not put two great halves together shooting the basketball," Donovan said. "It looked like the Ole Miss game but flip-flopped. We played Ole Miss in the first half like we played Arkansas in the second half. I think that all our guys on the floor created a little bit more continuity. The guys were in roles that they knew. They probably saw the way that Arkansas was defending and we were able to maybe (get better shots off)."

The Gators started off the game preparing for a blowout over the Razorbacks as Florida rushed out to a 9-2 lead before five minutes even ticked off the game clock. But before the Gators knew it, Arkansas slowly made its way back into the game.

Arkansas' defense tightened up and its offense began to get more comfortable in its plays. Soon the Gators were forcing shots and the Razorbacks were making laser-like cuts through Florida defenders for easy buckets.

Less than two minutes after the Gators' seven point lead, they now found themselves down 11-10 and the Razorbacks weren't going away. Arkansas' one-point lead then turned into a seven-point (18-11) after an exhilarating 16-1 run.

Calathes broke the Gators' scoring drought after laying the ball up with 10:51 remaining in the first. As Florida enforced its press more toward the end of the half, the Gators were able to keep themselves in the game and finally took the lead back after Calathes hit a two-point jumper to make the game 27-26 with 5:23 left.

With the Gators up 37-34 after halftime, Florida opened the game up with a 9-0 run, holding the Razorbacks scoreless for more than four minutes. The Gators took that early momentum and after struggling form the field in the first half, the Gators had a solid shooting performance in the second shooting 55.2 percent (16 of 29). Florida also hit 61.5 percent of its threes (8 of 13). To Calathes, one reason for Florida's dominate offensive performance was the fact that he and his teammates adjusted better to the Arkansas zone.

"Once we're playing like that," he said, "it's tough to play a zone."

The defense certainly didn't take a backseat. Florida applied more of the press like it did during the latter part of the first half, forcing two Razorback turnovers and 0-for-3 Arkansas shooting.

"We always want to be good in the press," said Walker, who was the leading scorer coming off the bench with 13 points and two steals. "We're smaller than most teams so we try to get after you and attack you with our quickness."

As the Gators improved to 11-0 at home and inch closer to getting back into the polls, Donovan said he doesn't expect his team to read too much into its early success. As the heart of conference play emerges, the competition will only get tougher and Donovan wants his players to realize that.

"Every game that goes by here going forward gets more challenging for our team," he said. "I would be really disappointed in our guys if they feel like we got everything figured out. We've done a good job the first week of the season and that's all this is, is one week."


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