Thursday, May 24, 2018
Sports

Florida downs Arkansas-Little Rock

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Billy Donovan was looking for energy, and he found it from someone who didn't have a lot to give.

Dorian Finney-Smith, done with his suspension but battling a virus that kept him out of practice all week and caused him to lose 10 pounds, scored 17 in 16 minutes to help the 11th-ranked Gators beat Arkansas-Little Rock 86-56 Saturday.

It was quite a debut for Finney-Smith, the versatile 6-foot-8 transfer from Virginia Tech. He was a threat outside and constantly around the basket for loose balls, exactly what Donovan preached after a lackluster opening half that ended in a tie at 27.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Donovan said. "He hadn't picked up a ball since Monday. He really moved the basketball and made the extra pass. Because he can shoot it, put it on the floor and pass, he opens up a lot of things for our guys."

Casey Prather led the Gators (2-1) with 27 points, eight during a 17-4 run midway through the second half.

Donovan was tired of watching his Gators move the ball slowly, looking for openings in the post that weren't there, while the Trojans (0-2) were walking the ball up the court.

He switched up some assignments and went to the press, and it paid off in a big way. UALR couldn't match the pace and had key turnovers that enabled Florida to turn the game into a rout. The Gators had a 25-12 rebounding edge in the second half.

"We got beat to the loose balls. We got beat on the glass," UALR coach Steve Shields said. "We didn't handle their pressure the way we needed to, especially in the second half."

UF was a better team with Finney-Smith on the floor. He sat out the first two games for breaking team rules, and he wasn't expected to play Saturday because of the illness. Florida cleared him, and he lived up to the expectations for at least one game.

"I told him, 'Coach, I can go, let me go.' I just want to play," Finney-Smith said. "He knew I was feeling bad. He was trying to hold me. He was thinking about it. I was just ready to go. … I was trying to keep my motor going."

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