By: Jenna Ladd
Coming off of a close win over Alabama on Tuesday, Florida (11-9, 4-3 SEC) needs to prepare quickly for no. 19 ranked Arkansas (16-4, 5-2 SEC) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
Despite coming in to the game with the all-time series lead of 16-11, the Florida Gators will have to combat a team that enjoys setting a chaotic tempo as much as they do.
The last time the two teams met in 2014, Dorian Finney-Smith made his first UF career start, scoring 22 points. Florida walked away with a close two-point victory, 84-82.
However, Florida was able to come out with the close win when they had Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather. Now, with a young and struggling team, it will definitely be a difficult battle for the Gators to overcome.
Fortunately for Florida, they will be coming home to play after back-to-back road games where they hold a record of 9-0 against Arkansas under Billy D.
Going into Saturday’s game, the players to look out for are the more experienced Finney-Smith, Eli Carter, Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier II as usual. However, freshman Chris Chiozza is emerging into an impact player for the Gators as well.
Although young, Chiozza has been getting good looks by his teammates and his coaches alike after the Alabama game. As a true freshman, he really had to step up to the plate when it came to growing and maturing quickly to play at the hectic speed of SEC basketball.
“This was a game where he did really provide a lot of energy for us on both ends of the floor,” Donovan said of Chiozza following the Alabama game. “I’ve always felt like he has a good understanding and feel how to play.”
Eli Carter echoed his coach on Chiozza’s quick development saying that “he’s not a freshman anymore” and that he has helped the team out a lot this season.
On Arkansas’ end, Donovan has targeted sophomore forward Bobby Portis as one of their main threats. He is currently averaging a mean 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Aside from the fact that he could have gone pro after his freshman year, Bobby is 9-16 from behind the arc putting him at a high 56 percent shooting treys.
“Clearly, he’s [Portis] one of the best front court players in the league this year,” Billy said. “He can do it inside and out. His versatility, [Arkansas Coach] Mike Anderson gives him the opportunity to step away from the basket and shoot.”
Another threat would be Michael Qualls, a 6-foot-6 junior guard who plays above the rim much like Finney-Smith. Granted, they are not all game winning, and do not result in trending on Twitter as Dorian did on Tuesday.
As far as gameplay on Saturday, the Razorbacks will bring their A-game, attempting to out play and tire out the Gators. It’ll be the battle of tempos, seeing which team is the first to lose their poise against intense pressure.
Florida will need to keep control of the ball, not giving up turnovers or rebounds easily. However, Florida could be able to take advantage of Arkansas’ frantic pace on offense to run the court and score some easy points in transition off of rebounds.
This game will not be an easy win, but if Florida can pull out a home victory over Arkansas, it could change their fate in the SEC moving forward.