Gators Win Ugly Against Arkansas

TAMPA -- Florida opened SEC Tournament play with a victory they had to have against Arkansas. After a rough beginning, the Gators pulled away for a 73-58 victory over the Razorbacks.

The Gators shot just 33 percent in the first half with Nick Calathes in particular struggling. The sophomore turned the ball over five times and put up a pair of airballs before the break. Going to the half, it was Florida leading only 29-26.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said Calathes is still learning his limitations within the flow of the game.

"Sometimes being a decoy and having a presence on the court that people have to account for opens things for other people and there's no need to force things."

"He was trying to just do too much. Sometimes it just calls for you to pass the ball and let it go. The thing you love about him is that Nick is such a competitor that he wants to take all that on and I'd rather have a guy who wants to do it."

Arkansas tied the game early in the second half at 31, but never led at any point during the evening. A Gator flurry beginning with an Alex Tyus jumper at the 14:36 mark stretched a one point lead to eleven on a Calathes layup with 11:18 remaining. Arkansas never got within single digits again.

With Florida's All-SEC performer in a funk, it was their two upperclassmen who delivered Thursday night. Senior Walter Hodge scored a game high 16 points, while junior Dan Werner chipped in with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Donovan noted that Werner and Hodge came up big despite being cold with their outside shooting. The pair hit just two of 12 from three-point range.

"They still were able to have a good, positive effect on the game with the things that they did. Walter was really good in the front of our press."

Better second half shooting (54 percent) was part of Florida putting away Arkansas, but defense was a major factor as well. They forced 16 turnovers and accelerated the pace to encourage bad shots.

"I think our press started wearing on them. Walt got a couple of big steals and went down and hit foul shots and that just got us going," said Werner.

Florida advances to a second round game against Auburn today that may determine whether they reach the NCAA field or not. Tipoff will likely come around 9:40, and with the game being on a Friday it's anticipated there will be a larger pro-Gator crowd than watched the Arkansas game. The Thursday crowd was announced at just 12,152 and rarely made much noise during the action.

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