Arkansas’ season has been enigmatic.
After a brutal non-conference performance that saw them go 6-8, the Razorbacks have managed to compile an impressive Southeastern Conference record, including three wins against ranked teams.
Most of the credit for their turnaround falls on the shoulders of junior forward Jessica Jackson.
When the Florida women’s basketball team took on Georgia earlier this season, UF head coach Amanda Butler opined that it was difficult to prepare for the Bulldogs because they featured several players who could be difference makers.
Butler likely didn’t have that problem when scouting the Razorbacks.
When the Gators (16-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) take the court against Arkansas (9-11, 4-3 SEC) at 8 p.m. in Fayetteville, it’s no secret that the Razorbacks will turn to Jackson to lead them to victory.
On offense, Jackson leads Arkansas with 17.3 points per game and is third in the conference with 17.1 points per SEC game.
Florida’s leading scorer is Ronni Williams with 10.8 points per game, and three more Gators appear on the conference leaderboard before the next Razorback (Devin Cosper with 8.7).
Jackson also leads Arkansas with a 33-percent clip from three and shoots 75 percent from the charity stripe.
But her influence doesn’t stop on offense.
On the other end of the floor, she leads the Razorbacks with 4.8 defensive rebounds per game as well as in blocked shots with 1.2 per game.
"They’ve got one of the best players in the league in Jessica Jackson," Butler said.
While Jackson has been prolific, the team as a whole has not been.
Arkansas’ 11 losses feature defeats at the hands of unranked, un-touted opponents in South Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Missouri State.
Yet, in SEC play, three of Arkansas’ four wins have come against ranked opponents.
Arkansas opened conference play with five straight games against ranked opponents.
The Gators find themselves in the midst a similar stretch now, as their next three games after Arkansas will be against opponents ranked No. 12 or higher.
However, Butler isn’t concerned with where Arkansas or the teams to come are ranked.
"When you’re playing an SEC team, you’re playing one of the best teams in the country," she said.
"Whether they’ve got a number by their name or not."
Both teams are coming off losses, with Arkansas losing to Auburn in overtime and Florida losing to Missouri when its fourth-quarter comeback fell short.
The Gators have earned a reputation as a team that plays best in the fourth quarter this season.
But they have also learned that their strategy of coming back late doesn’t always pan out.
Butler, though, says that being scrappy until the end is still part of Florida's identity.
"I don’t think our team thinks of themselves any differently because of one outcome," she said.
"I think you’ve gotta look at our total body of work and what we’ve been able to do in many games as opposed to what happens in one game."
Consistent with the day-by-day approach she’s preached all year, Butler is excited to get the chance to pick up a win against Arkansas.
"It’s important that we play well at Arkansas and do our dadgum best to beat Arkansas because they’re Arkansas — a team in the SEC," she said.