Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators had a commanding 23-point lead at halftime of Wednesday night's 75-36 win over South Carolina.
Part of the reason why was because senior guard Mike Rosario also led the Gamecocks at halftime. Rosario had 12 points in the first half while the Gamecocks scored just 10.
The Gators broke the game open midway through the first half when Rosario scored 10 consecutive points, boosting an 11-4 Florida lead to 21-4 with 10:12 left in the opening half.
South Carolina's pulse faded fast from there.
For Rosario, his 12 first-half points matched his total from the past two games, road wins at Georgia and Mississippi State in which Rosaria shot just 4 of 21 (19 percent).
"I didn't play like I usually play,'' Rosario said of his road woes. "I was beating myself up about it. My teammates were just telling me to stay focused on the task at hand and get better every day. I feel like I came out aggressive and took what the defense gave me."
Rosario's first basket during his 10-0 run was a layup with 13:35 left. Over the next 3:23, Rosario added a jumper, another layup and capped the outburst with a 4-point play. Rosario nailed a 3-pointer in front of the South Carolina bench and was fouled on the shot by Brian Richardson.
He was helped from the floor by his teammates, sank the free throw and the rout was officially on. Florida's defense forced nine South Carolina turnovers in the first nine minutes, also helping spark Rosario's offensive outburst.
"We want them to be confused out there,'' said Kenny Boynton, one of Rosario's backcourt mates. "We did a great job. Every time they tried to run a play, we beat them to their spot."
Rosario took the floor Wednesday mentally prepared to not only turn his game around, but to help the Gators stay on top of theirs. Florida improved to 7-0 in the Southeastern Conference and won its ninth consecutive overall.
The Gators continue to do it in dominating fashion.
"We want to make teams uncomfortable,'' Rosario said. "We are just doing everything that Coach wants us to do. Being aggressive on the defensive end and just taking care of the ball.
"Everyone is doing their job and it's showing. There's just positive energy throughout this whole team right now."
Rosario finished 6 of 11 on Wednesday, including a pair of 3-pointers, to finish with 15 points, matching Boynton for the team lead.
While Rosario has bought into Florida coach Billy Donovan's team-first approach much better than a year ago after sitting out a season as a transfer from Rutgers, he can still make Donovan scratch his head.
There was a moment like that Wednesday. The dunk came near the end of the first half. The play started when Florida's Patric Young blocked a layup attempt by South Carolina's Eric Smith that ricocheted off the backboard and almost to half-court.
Rosario grabbed the ball and raced the other way for a two-handed dunk. Rosario was then whistled for a technical because he hung on the rim.
That earned Rosario a glare from Donovan and a spot on the bench for the final minute of the first half.
"I think it was a really good official call by the official,'' Donovan said. "Once the [defender] runs by you just get off the rim."
While Rosario scored more points than the Gamecocks in the first half, Donovan made sure to point out that "he was probably responsible for half their points" due to turnovers and getting called for the technical.
"I don't think Mike was trying to showboat or anything,'' Donovan said. "He just hung up there a little long."
Donovan jabbed at Rosario in a playful manner on Wednesday. Still, he wants Rosario to continue to play good defense and take care of the ball to maximize his role in the lineup.
Rosario sounds as if the message has sunk in.
"I was actually mad one time because I didn't get to a rotation and I felt like I let my teammates down at that moment,'' Rosario said. "You always want to be perfect at what you do. That's something we strive to do every day."
For a short stretch of the first half against South Carolina, Rosario was close to perfection.