Men's Basketball Headline
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Contributing Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The ribbing from the locals when he went home for for the holidays was humbling. The opponent doing the Gator chomp on the O’Connell Center floor was humiliating. Playing just 12 minutes and failing to score against his hometown college team was frustrating.
But for sophomore center Patric Young, the worst recollection of last year’s stunning 71-68 overtime loss to Jacksonville was watching from the bench as Dolphins forward Ayron Hardy ripped the ball from the hands of eventual Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons and took it in for a dunk that tied with 20 seconds left to force overtime.
“Even though we had played so poorly,” said Young, the Jacksonville product, “we still had the game in our hands.”
The Dolphins were the tougher team that day, they wanted it more, so they took it.
“No disrespect to those guys. Basketball is basketball. You can be beat on any day,” senior point guard Erving Walker said. “But obviously, on our home court, it was embarrassing.”
To a man -- coach and player -- the 10th-ranked Gators swear Friday night’s visit from the Dolphins (2-2) won’t be about payback.
“I’m not a big revenge guy,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “In the history books and record books, Jacksonville will have always beaten us in 2010. Nobody is taking that away. What it is, definitely, is a sign this is a basketball team capable of beating us because they’ve done it already.”
So if you happened to have JU in the office pool for teams the Gators are most likely to overlook this season, forget about it. That’s not to say history (and history books) can’t repeat itself. The Dolphins return three starters from last year’s 20-12 squad that finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
This game, though, is not about Jacksonville. It’s about the Gators. In fact, Donovan wishes the concept could be grasped in his locker room that all games are about the Gators, so they don’t have to learn the hard way like the ’10-11 squad did when it beat Florida State on the road then three days later loss against Central Florida; or when it beat Kansas State in South Florida, then fell against JU; or when it won a rare road game at Tennessee early in the Southeastern Conference season, then came home and lost to South Carolina.
“I think most players are more inclined to be able to handle coming back after a loss,” Donovan said. “But when you win some really big games and guys don’t know how to deal with that ... I thought those things helped us last year have a better understanding, believe it or not.”
Now it’s up to Walker and Young and Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin, guys that tasted that bitterness of inconsistency last year, to get the attention of Bradley Beal, Mike Rosario, et al.
If not, Donovan surely will get their attention after the fact. The hard way.
“The way practice was after that, we didn’t have time for [the loss] to linger,” Walker said. “He didn’t play no games with us.”
The Gators will try to avoid playing games with Jacksonville by trying to play their game. Each time out in what is about to be a very ambitious non-conference season is an opportunity to work on spacing the floor, finding open shooters off penetration and getting the ball in deep to Young.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Donovan said.
The Gators, whose last outing was a 78-65 victory Monday over Wright State in Tampa, still don’t have a clear-cut rotation of reserves, need to get some more offense in the low post and continue to improve on their rebounding.
They do, however, know they have firepower from the outside and an intriguing four-guard lineup that saw considerable action Monday while Young sitting out after being poked in the eye. UF’s top four scorers against Wright State were guards, with Boynton and Beal leading the way with 22 points apiece. Those two, along with Rosario and Walker, combined to go 19-of-36 from the floor -- and that was with a 2-for-9 effort from Walker.
The Gators have hit at least 10 3-point shots in each of their four games this season, after hitting double-digit treys just twice the entire ’10-11 season.
“The way we’ve shot the ball has been good,” Donovan said.
The JU game is a chance to see if the team’s mental toughness and overall focus is as sharp at this point of the season as its collective shooting eye.
“We can’t take back the game from last year, but a lot of guys have that game in mind and want to win big,” Young said. “But just taking a win will be good enough in my book.”
Jacksonville vs. No. 7 Florida
Tip-off: 7 p.m. (O’Connell Center, Gainesville)
Records: Jacksonville 2-2; Florida 3-1
TV: Fox Sports Florida (w/Larry Vettel and Bill Koss)
Radio: Gator Radio Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 220/XM 199
Need to know: The Gators and Dolphins will play for the 34th time in a series that dates to 1960. Florida leads the series 28-5, though JU defeated UF 71-68 in overtime last Dec. 20 at the O’Dome. ... Florida coach Billy Donovan is 9-1 vs. the Dolphins. ... Jacksonville is the second of four in-state opponents the Gators will face this season. UF already defeated North Florida, with games to come against Stetson (Monday in Orlando) and Florida State (Dec. 22 at home). ... G Kenny Boynton, a career 38.9-percent shooter from the floor and 32.2 from the arc, is hitting 54.2 percent overall and 50 percent (15-of-30) from 3-point range. ... G Mike Rosario, transfer from Rutgers, came to UF as a 31.4-percent shooter, but through his four games as a Gator has made 12 of 19 from distance (63.2 percent). ... Florida has made a 3-point shot in 655 consecutive games, a run dating back to Jan. 11, 1992. ... Erving Walker has 20 assists and 10 turnovers, helping UF average 17 assists and 13 turnovers per game. The Dolphins average ratio 13 assists and 16.8 turnovers. ... JU is coached by Cliff Warren, who is 94-94 in seven seasons and has post five straight winning seasons, the second-longest such streak in school history.