No. 2 Gators pounded in Fayetteville

No. 2 Gators pounded in Fayetteville

It was a matter of time before a game like Tuesday happened to No. 2 Florida. The Gators were playing close to flawless in their first eight conference games this season, and it all came crashing down in Fayetteville. Florida head coach Billy Donovan was disappointed with the way his team started the game while the Razorbacks continued to pull away and cruised to an 80-69 win.

It was obvious from the beginning that the Florida defense didn't show up the same way it did in the first eight games of conference play. Arkansas averages four three-pointers per game this season and had that within the first 7:33 of the game, with the fourth one pushing the Razorbacks' lead to 26-10.

The bad start ended up being too much to overcome.

"Anytime in victory or defeat, there's two sides to the story," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. "They played very well and we did not. More than anything, winning and success is a really hard thing to handle. A lot of people have a hard time handling success. I thought we came out and did not play like we have played. That was a disappointing part."

It didn't get much better. The deficit Florida faced wasn't less than 17 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Gators have buried their opponents in recent games by closing out the first half and starting fast out of the gates in the second half.

After trailing 43-26 at halftime, Florida didn't get off to their patented fast start in the second half. Arkansas opened it on a 6-0 run and didn't look back.

"For our team to be down to anybody by 25-28 points, that's more of a reflection of us and not Arkansas," Donovan said. "They played well, don't get me wrong, but they're not 26 points better than us. They are when we show up like today."

Mike Rosario led the Gators with 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting form the field and 2-for-5 from behind the three-point line. Scottie Wilbekin added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Michael Frazier had 11 points and Kenny Boynton had 10.

The big blow for Florida came in the first half when Will Yeguete came out with a knee injury. He has been playing through knee tendinitis for weeks and dealing with the pain, but he tweaked it and came out of the game just over four minutes into it. He played just one minute and will be reevaluated when the team returns to Gainesville.

It shortened the Florida bench, but Donovan wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"We've dealt with a lot of injuries and guys in and out of games," Donovan said. "You've got to be resilient. If we would've played our best game without Will Yeguete and with Patric Young in foul trouble, I'm not sure we could've won the game.

"When I see our players trying to talk to officials and saying they got fouled, held or grabbed, and then our guys are going down and missing layups and free throws—we've got enough trying to take care of our responsibility and should never worry about someone else's responsibility."

The Gators have more time than usual to rebound before hosting Mississippi State at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The loss moved Florida to an 8-1 conference record and just a one-game lead in the SEC standings.

"For our team, as much as I don't want to say this, I think sometimes getting humbled is a good thing to get us back to, ‘who are we?' We didn't play anything defensively like we have all year long," Donovan said. "We didn't play offensively like we have all year long. In a lot of ways, we didn't give ourselves a chance to win the game. That was the disappointing thing to me."

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