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February 18, 2012Arkansas went from one extreme to the other.
After opening the season with a school-record 17-0 start at home, the Razorbacks had no answers in a 98-68 loss to No. 14 Florida on Saturday.
It was Arkansas' worst defeat in Bud Walton Arena since its opening in 1993. The previous worst loss was a 73-51 defeat to Auburn in 2009.
The Razorbacks (17-10, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) were down by more than at halftime to Florida, which led 53-27 at the intermission.
"Talk about tough days at the office," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "That was a tough day at the office."
Erving Walker, meanwhile, had no such difficulties for the Gators (21-6, 9-3). Walker scored a career-high 31 points for Florida, which earned its fourth win in five road games.
The Gators opened the season 0-4 on the road, but Walker set the pace on Saturday, scoring 18 first-half points as the Gators opened a 53-27 halftime lead and were never threatened in the second half.
Walker had hit 2 of 18 3-point attempts in his last four games. However, the senior hit his first four attempts against the Razorbacks and finished 5 of 6 from behind the arc.
Florida was 13 of 23 on 3-pointers as a team and hit 29 of 34 free throws. Kenny Boynton had 25 points and Brad Beal added 21 for the Gators.
"Obviously, it was a perfect storm in a lot of ways because we got to the free-throw line and we shot the ball very, very well," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Arkansas was led in 2009, when it suffered the previous worst loss in Bud Walton Arena, by former coach John Pelphrey.
Pelphrey was once again on hand Saturday, only this time as an assistant coach for the Gators after behind fired by Arkansas after last season. He entered the arena to a polite ovation from the Razorbacks crowd, which had few opportunities to cheer once the game started.
"This is a big win for us and we did it for Coach Pel," Beal said. "We just wanted to make a statement and make up for him."
Pelphrey was fired after compiling a 69-59 record in four seasons at Arkansas. He said at the time that he wasn't given enough time to turn around a Razorbacks program that had missed the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons.
He was prophetic for much of the season for Arkansas, which had wins over three ranked teams at home on its resume. However, its only lead on Saturday came after Mardracus Wade's 3-pointer put the Razorbacks up 3-2.
The game was all about the Gators after that, particularly Walker in the early going. The senior was 6 of 7 shooting in the first half, including 4 of 4 3-pointers, and he scored 11-straight points at one point in the half. He opened the stretch with a drive to the basket and followed it with three-straight 3-pointers that helped Florida extend its lead to 30-13.
His previous career high also came against Arkansas, a 27-point effort two years ago as a sophomore.
"This is a tough place to play and we knew they were undefeated at home," Walker said. "We just wanted to come in and grab control early and not let the crowd get into it."
Florida was 21 of 31 (68 percent) from the field at one point early in the second half and hit 11 of its first 16 3-point attempts. The Gators, who lead the SEC in made 3-pointers, finished 28 of 48 from the field, topping a 56.3 percent performance in a win over LSU on Jan. 21.
Florida opened the season 0-4 on the road, including losses at Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee. The Gators improved to 4-5 on the road with the win and have now won four of their last five.
Arkansas was 21 of 57 (37 percent) from the field. Young scored 23 of his points in the second half and finished 10 of 19 from the field, but the Razorbacks were never able to get closer than 22 points in the second half.
"I think they were just the better team today," Young said. "They hit a lot of 3s. It's hard to stop a team that's shooting as well as they did in the first half.
"I don't really think that they're 30 points better than us. I think they just had a great game today."