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Thursday November 1, 2012Fresh Faces: Gators Rookies Outshine Upperclassmen in 101-71 Exhibition Win

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Everyone went home Thursday night raving about the Florida freshmen. Billy Donovan left the O'Connell Center grumbling about his upperclassmen.

Freshman guard Michael Frazier II (pictured above) scored a game-high 21 points, making five of six shots from 3-point range, as UF's four-man rookie class accounted for nearly half the team's points in a 101-71 exhibition win over Division-II Nebraska-Kearney before 7,121 at the O'Dome.

Frazier, the Tampa kid who honed his game last year at prep powerhouse Montverde (Fla.) Academy, went 8-for-10 from floor, while fellow freshmen guards Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, N.C.) scored 15 points on 4-for-5 shooting and Dillon Graham (Orlando) hit all four of his field goals for 12 points. Throw in two from forward DeVon Walker and that makes 50 freshman points on 17-for-24 shooting.

And then there were the veterans.

Aside from junior forward Will Yeguete's 20 points and 11 rebounds in an encouraging return from a season-ending broken foot, the combination of junior center Patric Young, senior forward Erik Murphy, senior guard Mike Rosario and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin totaled 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

That the young guys out-shined the experienced guys was something Donovan wasn't ready for; not after a preseason of talking effort, defense and rebounding.

"I was much, much more pleased with our freshmen. After coaching those guys for three weeks, they in a lot of ways do not know what they're doing, but they're committed to working hard, trying to get better and being committed to the game," Donovan said. "I question our older guys commitment to defending and rebounding like we need to. That was the disappointing thing to me. I'd rather have the young guys out there making mistakes, really getting after it, giving all they have."

That's why Donovan went with a lineup of one senior, guard Kenny Boynton (14 points, 6-for-9 shooting), alongside Frazier and Graham in the backcourt, and 6-foot-5 Walker and 6-7 Yeguete up front -- energy over size -- and watched the Gators turn an eight-point lead four minutes into the second half into a 22-point lead four minutes later.

"I think we played really hard, and that's all Coach Donovan asked of us; to go out there and give it our best effort," Frazier said. "The shots just fell."

They dropped for Yeguete too, who was delighted not only with his performance (8-for-10 from the floor), but more so for the opportunity to be back on the court in a game-situation -- in front of fans -- for the first time since breaking his foot Feb. 21 against Auburn.

"Oh my gosh, I was just excited to be out there and back on the court," said Yeguete, who finished second on the team in rebounding last season. "I just wanted to be play hard and play aggressive and crash the boards."

He did, grabbing five offensive rebounds. Collectively, though, the Gators won the rebound battle against the undersized Lopers by a slim -- and unacceptable, according to Donovan -- margin of 32-29.

That won't cut it next week in the 2012-13 season opener against Georgetown.

Not on a battleship, in a coliseum or any playground, for that matter."We'll have to rebound and play hard from the start in that game," Boynton said. "We got off to a slow start tonight."

As far as the coach was concerned, they finished slow too. "I was really disappointed in our defense," Donovan said after Nebraska-Kearney shot 45.8 percent for the game (41.2 from the arc), including 51.9 percent after halftime.

"Clearly, from a talent standpoint and size standpoint, we had a huge advantage [but] time and time again I saw our older guys getting beat off the dribble and not rebounding the basketball."

Wonder where the focus will be during practice the next few days.

 

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