4:05 PM ET, February 28, 2004
Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Florida notched another win on its road to recovery and restoration of its NCAA tournament hopes Saturday.The Gators overcame their own sloppiness -- 20 turnovers -- because Arkansas struggled from the 3-point line -- 2-for-25 -- for a 73-68 victory.Florida (17-8, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) won its third in a row after a 3-6 stretch, including losing four of five and falling out of the Top 25."I don't know if it's a roll or not," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I think we have rallied and pulled together."David Lee scored 18 points, Matt Walsh added 17 and Florida withstood a late Arkansas run for the victory. The Razorbacks battled back from a 19-point deficit in the second half and cut the lead to 69-64 with 1:19 remaining.After that, Arkansas (12-13, 4-10) missed three shots on one possession before turning it over on a jumped ball and it missed two more shots before Walsh sealed the game with four free throws in the final minute, the last two with 19 seconds remaining for a 73-64 lead."We have learned form our previous losses that you can never let up in a game, so we stuck in there and played hard and came out on top," Walsh said.Donovan said he wonders how much former player Christian Drejer was affected during the nine-game slide before his sudden departure to play professionally in Spain. Florida's three-game winning streak started after he left.Two of those wins have been on the road, guaranteeing Florida of finishing .500 overall in the SEC and on the road. Only No. 7 Mississippi State and No. 9 Kentucky have four league wins on the road."The thing I'm most pleased about is we play a lot of freshman and they've been able to win four on the road in this year," Donovan said. "You go .500 on the road in this league, that's hard to do."The Gators were helped by the Razorbacks' 2-for-25 performance from the 3-point line, as they missed their first 17 attempts."It's difficult when your shots aren't falling," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "When you're young, you get frustrated when your shots don't fall. We need to win an ugly game, when things aren't going your way."Arkansas now needs to win its final two games, at home against Alabama on Wednesday and at Mississippi on Saturday to finish 14-13 in the regular season and have any hope of earning an NIT berth.Ronnie Brewer led Arkansas with 23 points, seven rebounds and six steals, but it wasn't enough to keep the Razorbacks from losing 10 conference games three years in a row for the first since joining the SEC in 1991.Arkansas hadn't played in a week, since knocking South Carolina out of the Top 25 with an 82-66 win. However, players said they didn't think the time off hurt."We were just off on our shooting and you can't blame that on the week off," Davis said. "It was a bad shooting night, but we played hard on defense. We scrambled, pressed and played physical."Leading 69-60 with 1:38 to go, Florida turned the ball over three straight times against Arkansas' press.The Razorbacks took advantage of the first two, cutting the lead to 69-64 with 1:20 remaining. Olu Famutimi and Brewer each scored after making steals, but the Razorbacks didn't score again until a pair of meaningless layups in the final 11 seconds.The Razorbacks scored 28 points after forcing 20 turnovers and that was the only thing that kept the game from being a blowout."Arkansas had such a low 3-point percentage that helped us out," Donovan said. "But our 20 turnovers kept them in the game, so they both offset each other."Florida opened up 46-30 lead with an 11-3 run to start the second half, but Arkansas cut the score to 59-52 once it finally made a couple of 3-pointers.The Razorbacks missed their first 17 3-pointers, until Jonathon Modica made one on an inbounds play with 12:36 left in the game. Modica, Arkansas' leading scorer, came off the bench for the second straight game and added 17 points.Kendrick Davis hit another 3-pointer with 10:02 remaining in a 13-4 run that put Arkansas back in the game and set up the late run.Anthony Roberson, who finished with 12 points and seven assists, hit a deep 3-pointer 2 minutes later for a 53-34 lead, Florida's biggest of the game.Arkansas led 16-11 early, but Florida's hot shooting quickly erased that deficit. The Gators used a 17-5 run to take a 28-21 lead with 6:02 remaining in the first half.Florida took command of its 69-58 win over South Carolina on Wednesday with a late 14-0 run and the Gators continued to shoot well on Saturday. They made 12 of 16 shots to open the game and they held a 35-27 halftime lead by shooting 62.5 (15 of 24) for the half.The Gators finished the game shooting 58 percent (29 of 50), including 8-of-19 from the 3-point line.
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