Gators Feeling at Home in Tampa

TAMPA -- Florida has the closest thing to a home court advantage of any SEC team at the tournament this year, and they enjoyed that at their open practice Wednesday evening. The Gators are the only team in the event with players who have played in the St. Pete Times Forum during their career, but even the freshmen seemed to be right at home in Tampa.

One of them, Kenny Kadji, spent a few late minutes attempting to mimic a Dwight Howard bounce the ball off the backboard dunk. Now the Gators have to turn that relaxed attitude into a successful Thursday night performance against Arkansas.

"We're going to have great fans," said senior guard Walter Hodge. "We've got a lot of fans in Atlanta, but I think we're going to get a great crowd. It's great to play at home."

Last season Florida's stay at the tournament was extremely brief, as they were dominated most of the way in a loss to Alabama. Junior forward Dan Werner doesn't anticipate a similar peformance this year.

"We've got different kind of players," said Werner. "We play a lot harder, so I would say you can't compare and look back at what happened with that because it's totally different."

Billy Donovan liked what he saw of his team enough that they wrapped up their practice at the Forum with eight minutes still remaining of the hour each team is given on the event court. They had been through a more extensive workout at the practice facility in Gainesville earlier in the day.

Donovan made clear he feels his team's focus is not on the lingering question of what it will take for them to reach the NCAA tournament.

"We don't have any control other than the fact we play tomorrow night and we have the opportunity to go out as a team and play to the best of our ability," Donovan said.

Not everything for Florida was ideal Wednesday, as it was confirmed that forward Allan Chaney will miss the tournament with continuing injury issues including a sprain in his heel. They won't be the only team missing a player, as Arkansas freshman Jason Henry did not make the trip. He was averaging eight points and four rebounds for the year, but has been capable of more including a 27 point, 12 rebound performance against South Carolina.

"He's not here. You always are disappointed. We're going to do as well as we can with the guys we've got," said Arkansas coach John Pelphrey.

The loss of Henry reduces the Razorbacks depth at the three and four positions.


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