Friday November 30, 2012Gators Use Balanced Attack and Focused Young to Throttle Marquette in SEC/Big East Challenge
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As if a 33-point wipeout of Big East power Marquette wasn't lopsided enough, Billy Donovan's margin of victory Thursday night over Patric Young may have been every bit as one-sided.
And in the long run, far more important to this Florida basketball team.
Benched from the starting lineup after a train wreck of a practice Wednesday, Young took the demotion to heart by scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking three shots and dishing three assists in 22 high-energy minutes, as the seventh-ranked Gators crushed the Golden Eagles 82-49 before an announced crowd of 10,242 at the O'Connell Center.
Message delivered, message received.
"Guess what," Donovan said afterward. "For Patric, that's now the expectation."
More on Young later, as plenty of his teammates had a hand in the rout that was a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament West Region Sweet 16 round game. Make that a rematch.
Freshman guard Michael Frazier topped UF (6-0) with 17 points, hitting 5-for-8 from 3-point range and leading six teammates into double figures, including forward Will Yeguete, who had 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting and seven rebounds. Forward Casey Prather scored 11 off the bench, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts. Guard Mike Rosario had 11 points and forward Erik Murphy 10.
Florida shot 50.9 percent against a Marquette defense that was giving up just 38.3 on the season. On the other end, the Gators held the Golden Eagles (5-2) to just 41.2 percent (eight points below their average) and blasted them on the boards 37-23.
The SEC/Big East Challenge -- at least at the Gainesville site -- wasn't much of a challenge.
"I've never been beat this bad in my entire career," fifth-year Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "In 179 games as a head coach, that's the worst loss. Not close."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Donovan and his team were at the basket complex for a second practice of the day; one that wrapped up close to midnight. He ordered the Gators back for a 10 p.m. practice, about five hours after their afternoon workout ended, specifically because of Young's behavior, with Donovan announcing to the team the 6-foot-9, 260-pound junior would not start the Marquette game.
The only question was how Young would respond.
Back in his dorm last night, Young was surrounded by several of his closest friends on the team -- Yeguete, Prather, guard Scottie Wilbekin -- and they talked. This was not the first time Donovan had called Young out during a practice; not by a long shot.
But it was the most pointed confrontation of them all.
"They told me how much they loved me and that Coach is going to push because he sees how great we can be," Young said after the game. "I believe he sees something far greater than what I see in myself. I just need to embrace the moment of adversity when he says he's squeezing us. I need to trust my teammates to help me through this rather than try and do it on my own."
So Young did not start on a night 20 NBA scouts were sitting on press row for a game televised nationally on ESPN2.
"The thing I hate to have happen is someone being viewed or painted in a different light and as someone they are not. Patric Young is a great kid," Donovan said. "I think my job as a coach is to bring out the best in Patric Young as a player. He was not doing that. It wasn't even performance. It was more his effort, his attitude."
Young brought a different attitude to the O'Dome against the Golden Eagles, but he needed to wait nearly four minutes to unleash it. In the interim, the rest of the Gators had plenty of attitude to spare.
UF slowly built a 10-point lead through 11 minutes and inched it out to 14 by halftime, thanks to Frazier's 4-for-6 shooting eye from the arc.
"The basket was looking bigger for me, that's for sure," said Frazier, whose previous UF high was eight points. "My teammates did a great job of finding me for open looks."
The Gators began the second half on a 9-0 tear to open up a 23-point margin and just kept coming. Once the clocked ticked below 13 minutes, Florida never trailed by less than 21. Along the way, the Golden Eagles were forced into 14 turnovers that UF converted to 22 points.
Senior guard and scoring leader Kenny Boynton had a tough night shooting the ball, going just 2-for-11 from the floor for six points, but he had five assists and helped facilitate a bench that outscored Marquette's reserves 40-19.
Overall, it was the most impressive performance of the young season from the Gators.
"I think they're good enough to win the whole thing," Williams said.
That's crazy talk for the last day of November. But there's no question the Gators can't be at their best unless Young is at his.
Like he was Thursday.
In the locker room after the game, Donovan praised Young for how he responded ... then promised to keep his foot on the gas pedal.
To do otherwise, he said, would be a disservice.
"There are certain guys that when get on them and challenge them, they pout, feel like they're a victim, they don't respond," Donovan said. "I think Patric has always responded. I think when you hit Patric with the truth and he has a day to reflect on himself, he usually responds pretty well. That was encouraging to see."
Better yet, it was validating and reinforcing.
Young went to the O'Dome not knowing what to expect. He ended up playing one of the best games of his collegiate career and with the No. 1 play -- a positively wicked blocked shot helping out from the weak side -- on SportsCenter's Top 10.
"I said was going to go there and excited for my team, whether I played one minute or the whole game,'' Young said. "I was going to give it my all."
Now, he needs to give it all the time.