Coming off yet another one-sided win, Florida hasn’t faced much of a test in SEC play thus far.
While a road matchup against Arkansas could prove a bit more challenging, the Gators were anything but fazed during their last visit to Fayetteville.
No. 2 Florida tries for an 11th consecutive victory and sixth in a row over the Razorbacks, who put their 10-game home winning streak on the line Tuesday night.
The Gators (18-2, 8-0) moved up two spots in Monday’s AP poll after rolling to two more easy victories last week. Florida dominated South Carolina in a 75-36 win Wednesday, then cruised past then-No. 16 Mississippi 78-64 on Saturday.
Big man Erik Murphy had 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting - including a 5-for-6 effort from 3-point range - and Patric Young posted his fifth double-double with 13 points and a career best-tying 12 rebounds.
“I think they will contend for the national championship,” Rebels guard and SEC leading scorer Marshall Henderson said of the Gators. “We have seen how they have been blowing people out. They executed perfectly. … I see them being No. 1 the country by the end of the season.”
Florida, which has outscored opponents by an average of 25.0 points during its 10-game run, is enjoying its best start in league play since opening 11-0 in 2006-07, when it successfully repeated as NCAA tournament champion. Coach Billy Donovan, though, feels his team is capable of more.
“We have plenty of stuff to work on. That is never a problem. … It’s always human nature to want to be complacent,” Donovan said. “You are trying to get a level of consistency. But you are never going to have consistency unless they are focused on trying to get better.”
The Gators’ recent efforts against the Razorbacks (13-8, 4-4) haven’t left much room for improvement. Florida has taken 11 of 13 in this series, including the last five by 19.4 points per game.
Everything seemed to be working during the Gators’ most recent visit to Arkansas, which saw its school-record 17-0 start inside Bud Walton Arena snapped with a 98-68 rout last Feb. 18 - its worst home loss since the building opened in 1993.
The Razorbacks have gone 13-1 at home this season, with their only loss coming 91-82 to then-No. 6 Syracuse on Nov. 30.
“I think Bud Walton is a great place to play. … I’m sure there will be a great crowd in there,” Donovan said. “Our guys have gone into that building, they know what to expect. They know how it is in there and they (Arkansas) plays very, very well at home as the stats and records show. They are exceptionally a very good home team.”
Arkansas regrouped from back-to-back road losses with Saturday’s 73-60 home win over Tennessee. Sophomore standout BJ Young, averaging a team-high 16.7 points, scored 25 in 27 minutes off the bench to lead three players in double figures.
Young, who’s come off the bench in two of the last four games, scored a career-high 31 points in that loss to Florida. The Razorbacks will surely be looking for him to carry the load again Tuesday in their most important game thus far.
“If you look at Florida and how they have been playing this year they are arguably the best team in the country,” Anderson said. “We get the ultimate challenge of playing them here at Bud Walton Arena.”