Gators Get Big Road Win

The Florida Gators got a big 71-66 SEC road win over Arkansas Thursday night before a national TV (ESPN) audience as well as a noisy crowd of 13,673 at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Led by a career-high 27 points from sophomore point guard Erving Walker, the Gators improved to 13-5 overall and evened their SEC mark at 2-2, while the Razorbacks dropped to 8-10, 1-2.

"I'm really proud of our guys. It was a great win," head coach Billy Donovan said in a postgame radio interview with WRUF. "Obviously coming into a difficult environment and not shooting the ball particularly well for the game, we had to really work. But anytime you go on the road in this league and win, it's a great accomplishment."

Walker, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field including 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half, finished 7-of-12 overall and 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in a sensational shooting effort. His final trey of the night capped a pivotal 11-2 run late in the game that broke the last of 14 ties, 56-all, and resulted in Florida enjoying its biggest lead of the game, 67-58, with 2:40 left to play.

Arkansas did make one last run, cutting the lead to 68-64 with less than 30 seconds left, but Walker, who was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, drained both his attempts after being fouled with 19 seconds left to boost the lead back to six and, for all intents and purposes, seal the deal.

"It felt good when I hit my first couple of shots, but I just tried to stay focused and play at a good pace," Walker said. "My teammates got me good looks, and I just hit 'em."

Unfortunately for the Gators, no one else was nearly as acute. UF won despite shooting just 35.5 percent from the field (26-of-62) as a team, including 6-of-17 (35 percent) from 3-point range. They were, however, much keener from the free throw line, and it paid big dividends as the Gators connected on 21-of-26 (81 percent) compared to the Hogs' 12-of-17 mark.

The Gators also posted a huge 42-29 rebounding edge, led by junior Alex Tyus, who had his third double-double of the season and eighth of his career with an 11-point, 12-rebound effort. Junior Chandler Parsons, starting for senior Dan Werner (flu) for the second straight game, grabbed 11 boards to go with six points and a team-high five assists.

"I thought the rebounding margin was a big difference in the game," Donovan said. "We were fortunate enough to get to the backboards, and we got some good offensive rebounds (17). It was good to see."

Florida also had a season-low seven turnovers, leading to a 13-3 advantage in points off turnovers and a 14-0 edge in fastbreak points.

The Razorbacks, who shot 44 percent (23-of-52) from the field and were 8-of-21 from 3-point range, had four players in double figures, led by junior guard Rotnei Clarke, a 3-point specialist who scored 17 points and was 5-of-9 from bonus land. Sophomore point guard Courtney Fortson, playing in just his fourth game of the season after being academically ineligible for the first semester, had a double-double of his own with 14 points and a game-high 11 assists. Marshawn Powell, a 6-7 freshman, also had 14 for the Razorbacks, while senior center Michael Washington had 11 points and six rebounds before fouling out late in the game.

The Gators will go for their third consecutive SEC win while trying to move up in the SEC East standings when they entertain division rival South Carolina Saturday in the O'Connell Center. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.

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