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Florida elbows Razorbacks aside 73-63 in bruising battle

After a frustrating first half, Gators pull away in a foul-filled game.

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- Florida's Brent Wright thought about shooting the open three-pointer at the top of the arc, but the tape around his sore right thumb made him think twice.

How symbolic.

Instead, Wright drove the lane and, in a game so physical it could be used as an XFL training tape, converted a three-point play that was the turning point of No. 8 Florida's 73-63 victory against Arkansas on Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

"This was by far the most physical game we've played this season," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "There were some hard fouls."

Wright, who hurt his thumb in an early scuffle, gave the Gators a 69-63 lead with 1:06 left. Starting for the first time since returning six games ago from foot surgery, he had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Arkansas (16-5, 6-4 SEC) failed to score again, rushing three-point shots on consecutive possessions.

Florida's Udonis Haslem and Brett Nelson each scored 19. Arkansas' Joe Johnson had 14.

The game's physical nature worked against the Gators (14-8, 5-5) in the first half. Exasperated when officials did not call what they thought were Arkansas fouls, their emotions got the best of them. They shot 35 percent, committed 11 turnovers and were outrebounded 20-10. The half ended with UF trailing 35-29 and Donovan staring down officials at midcourt because of a no-call at the buzzer.

"You know when you play Arkansas they're going to hand check, they're going to slap, they're going to grab, they're going to reach. That's what they do," Donovan said. "And we do that, too. But this was an extremely physical game."

Four minutes into the second half, officials issued technical fouls to Arkansas center Larry Satchell and Haslem, who shoved Satchell with his forearm as the two walked and talked.

"In the heat of battle you try to have a little fun and throw a little trash-talking in there," Haslem said. "But I guess they thought it was time to stop the talking."

The call was more costly for Arkansas (it was Satchell's fourth foul, Haslem's third), which lost the presence of its most physical player. Satchell fouled out with 7:51 left.

"That double technical really hurt us," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "It's a rough game, a tough game. I guess he used a bad word. That's why he got the technical."

The rough play continued.

With the score tied at 57 with four minutes left, Arkansas' Brandon Dean was called for an intentional foul on Matt Bonner, who made one free throw, then drilled a three-pointer for a 61-57 lead.

Seconds later, Haslem was fouled hard from behind and knocked to the floor by Dionisio Gomez. When Haslem jumped to his feet, most in the agitated crowd of 12,009 expected him to go after Gomez. Instead, he went coolly to the free-throw line.

Haslem scored seven of UF's 12 points in the final 3:31.

"I guess everybody got excited and thought I was going to chase the guy," Haslem said. "But I was just jumping up real quick. It was a hard foul, but it's all in the game."

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