Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mike Rosario was a hot topic of conversation Wednesday after playing his wire-to-wire best game since transferring to Florida from Rutgers two years ago.
The senior guard poured in 20 points, including 17 in the first half and four 3-pointers, to go with six rebounds and four assists in eighth-ranked UF’s 82-43 defeat of Southeastern Louisiana in front of a paid crowd of 8,057 at the O’Connell Center. His 31 minutes were easily a team-high for the game.
“I think he’s conformed. He’s been more disciplined, more responsible and more accountable,” Coach Billy Donovan said. “I feel like I know what I’m getting from him every day.”
Cue the “Twilight Zone” music.
To think where Rosario was this time last season - when Donovan wasn’t even sure if the former Scarlet Knight star would be able to practice on a given day - to have his coaches basically relying on him, speaks volumes of how far both parties have come.
Because Rosario is meeting the high standards set for him outside the lines, his play inside them is starting to take off. After hitting eight of his 13 field-goal tries and half of those eight 3-pointers, Rosario has averaged 16.6 points on 61 percent shooting and made eight of his last 14 from beyond the arc (57 percent) over the last three games.
“I just wanted to be aggressive, especially against a team like this,” Rosario said. “You want to come out with the same mindset as if it’s Wisconsin or Arizona, so by me being aggressive I think I really helped my team.”
Center Patric Young had 10 points and five rebounds, point guard Scottie Wilbekin had nine points, six rebounds and four assists, while freshmen Michael Frazier came off the bench to score 12 points and grab six rebounds mostly late in the game.
But Rosario set the tone.
“He got off a lot of shots, he created some shots for himself and was able to knock down threes when we found him,” Wilbekin said. “He was great.”
Now imagine if the Gators (8-1) can count on this version of Rosario every night. It would certainly help bridge senior guard Kenny Boynton’s current struggles, as UF’s leading scorer had another tough night, going 1-for-7 from the floor (all 3s) to run his shooting woes to 9-for-40 (that’s 22.5 percent) and 3-for-27 (11.1 percent) over his previous four games.
“He has to fight through this,” Donovan said of Boynton.
What Donovan was more immediately concerned with in facing the outmanned Lions (1-8) -- UF’s first game since the collapsing and crushing 65-64 loss Saturday night at Arizona -- was getting back to the level of intensity and discipline the Gators displayed before those eye-sore closing minutes of both halves against the Wildcats.
Especially on the defensive end.
“They were going to take the shot clock down to under 10 seconds,” Donovan said. “We had to limit them to one shot.”
That’s pretty much what happened.
Southeastern Louisiana shot just 29.1 percent for the game and came away with only six second-chance points, as UF handled the Lions on the glass 40-30 and held them to 14 points in the paint.
“We had just had to play disciplined, that’s what Coach kept talking about,” said junior forward Casey Prather, who scored eight points off the bench. “We had to do the things we’ve been working on in practice.”
That transfer started slowly, with Florida leading just 14-10 through eight minutes and by just eight, 25-17, after more than 13.
That’s when Rosario went on a scoring spree, first hitting back-to-back triples, then a driving bank-shot and a shake-and-bake 19-footer for 10 straight points over a span of 2:50 that pushed the Gators out in front 37-19.
“He got us going,” Wilbekin said.
Rosario’s teammates, collectively, brought things home in the second half by holding the Lions to just 25 percent shooting and not allowing a point through the first seven minutes after the break.
“With a team like that, they don’t need much of an open door to break through,” SE Louisiana coach Jim Yarbrough said.
Donovan was asked if the performance was the kind of “bounce-back” he was looking for after the late-game fiasco out West.
“I thought they bounced back at practice Sunday,” he said. “We didn’t need this game to bounce back.”
The Gators needed it to get back, as in to the way they were playing and going about their business before.
“We already were over that one as a team,” Wilbekin said. “We just wanted to make sure we were in tune with this game. They were another team in our path on this journey -- and we’ve got a long journey ahead of us.”