Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - In search of redemption following their first loss of the season, the 11th-ranked Florida Gators play host to the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday afternoon.
UALR is 0-1 after narrowly dropping its season opener at home to North Florida on Monday, 72-70. The Trojans are led by Steve Shields, now in his 11th season as head coach, and his 92 league victories are the most of any current coach in the Sun Belt Conference. This is the first of three games UALR will play against teams from the so-called power conferences, as still to come are bouts with Oklahoma (Nov. 29) and Memphis (Dec. 13).
Florida opened the campaign with a 77-69 win over the same North Florida squad that knocked off UALR, but then suffered a 59-53 loss at No. 20 Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The Gators, under the direction of Billy Donovan, now in his 18th year at the school, will be playing this game with only eight active players, as suspensions and injury/illness will hamper Donovan from using his full arsenal. Fortunately, the club won't face another formidable foe until Florida State comes calling on Nov. 29, and that game begins a murderous stretch in which the Gators will also face Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
Arkansas-Little Rock held a 41-37 halftime lead over North Florida in its season opener, but went ice cold from the floor over the final 20 minutes while the Ospreys upper their production, and it all led to a two-point loss for the Trojans. Josh Hagins scored 14 points to lead five players in double figures for UALR, but the team went from shooting 55.2 percent in the opening half to 25.0 percent after the break. Also working against the home team was a 41-29 rebounding deficit. The Trojans (seven) committed fewer than half the number of turnovers as UNF (15), one of the positives coach Shields is hoping his team can build upon.
Michael Frazier II came off the bench to nail five 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 20 points, but that effort went for naught as Florida lost at Wisconsin earlier this week. Casey Prather was the only other Gator to hit for double figures, netting 12 points. The team shot just 40.4 percent from the floor, hitting 5-of-14 3-point attempts, while the Badgers converted 9-of-20 long-range tries in shooting 43.8 percent from the field overall. Prather and Frazier II currently sit atop the team's scoring list with 20.0 and 19.5 ppg, respectively. While still very early in the season, Florida is averaging nearly the same number of points (65.0 ppg) as it allows (64.0 ppg), and the Gators are in the negative with regard to rebounding margin (-2.5).