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Saturday December 28, 2013Young On Verge of 1,000-point Milestone

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Amid his post-game chat with reporters after the Orange Bowl Classic last weekend, the notion of approaching 1,000 career points at the University of Florida was put to Patric Young.

“Yep,” he said. “I need eight.”

When asked if he was counting down to the prestigious figure, Young pointed out he was aware of his proximity to the milestone because of some paperwork he’d recently looked over as UF prepared to nominate the senior center for a handful of awards and honors.

Besides, he needs 12 points, not eight.

“Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to do it at our next game at home,” Young said.

That would be Sunday when the 13th-ranked Gators (9-2), winners of three straight, welcome Savannah State (2-10) to the O’Connell Center for the first game back from holiday break. Last year, Young tallied a double-double against the undersized, undermanned Tigers and even a remotely similar display will make Young the 50th player in Florida history to reach quadruple digits for his career.

He can add that achievement to his two-time Southeastern Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year awards. This season, UF is nominating him for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award and All-State NABC Good Works team, as well.

Young, who already has played in 92 wins at UF, won two league titles and started in two of three Elite Eights, has set his sights on some on-the-court honors, as well. And there’s still a lot of basketball to go this season. A bunch.

The tipoff of the SEC slate is still nearly two weeks away.

This season, Young’s numbers (10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds per game) look much like the ones he posted his previous two seasons as a starter (10.1, 6.3 as a junior; 10.2, 6.4 as a sophomore), but Gators coach Billy Donovan thinks his man in the middle is playing the best end-to-end basketball since joining the Gators in 2010-11 campaign after his McDonald's All-America career at Jacksonville Providence School.

“There have been some times where he’s been very erratic in practice over his career,” Donovan said. “But this is the most consistent he’s been, both with his attitude and his work ethic.”

Young had a string of 41 straight starts heading into the Fresno State game, but Donovan held Young from the opening lineup after his center sat out practice the day before with achy knees.

Donovan has a thing about players and practice. He believes running through the scouting reports and preparing for opponents on the floor is necessary. That was the coach’s explanation -- more like the standard -- when he told Young he’d be coming off the bench in Sunrise. He wasn’t so much sending Young a message as he was, say, freshman Kasey Hill.

This is how it works at Florida.

Young nodded and went about his business.

When he entered the game three minutes in, Young showed energy and activity on both ends of the floor for the better part of his 27 minutes. He didn’t stuff the box score (he rarely does), finishing with eight points and eight rebounds, missing some easy shots, but his intensity never wavered.

Missed shots didn’t deter him. Neither did some tough foul calls. Nor coming off the bench.

“Those are things that in the past maybe would have bled over into him being disappointed and down on himself and led to a poor game,” Donovan said. “He’s done a much better job of moving past those kinds of things and providing a presence on the defensive end of the floor. Look at him. He’s chasing more rebounds than he ever has before.”

Now, he’s chasing membership to the 1,000-point club.

“It’s good to be part of a program that wins and gives me a chance to become the best man and player I can be every day,” Young said. “It challenges me. To see the fruit of the whole process is just very rewarding.”

No. 13 Florida vs Savannah State  

When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.
Records: Florida 9-2, Savannah State 2-10
TV: FOX Sports Network and Sun Sports (w/Dave Neal and Larry Conley)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 91/XM 191
Game notes: Florida notes; Savannah State notes


History: Florida and Savannah State meet for just the third time -- UF leads the series 2-0 -- but for the second time in as many seasons. On Nov. 20, 2012, the Gators defeated the Tigers 58-40 in Gainesville, led by 13 points and 11 rebounds from Patric Young, plus 13 points from Mike Rosario, as the home team totaled 11 steals, 9 blocked shots and 20 forced turnovers. UF’s point total, however, marked its second-fewest of the season.

Pre-game storyline: The Gators took a three-game winning streak into their four-day break for the holidays, including defeats over top-20 teams Kansas (at home) and Memphis (at New York in the Jimmy V Classic), marking the first time Florida registered back-to-back non-conference victories over ranked teams in Coach Billy Donovan’s 18 seasons. The third win came last week against pesky Fresno State in the Orange Bowl Classic at Sunrise, Fla. The date with Savannah State, followed by a Jan. 4 home game against Richmond, will wrap up UF’s non-conference schedule. The Gators open their Southeastern Conference slate at home Jan. 8 against South Carolina.

The players: Senior forward Casey Prather was named MVP of the Orange Bowl Classic win over Fresno after scoring 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Prather currently ranks sixth in the SEC in scoring (18.6 ppg) and third in field-goal percentage (62.4). ... Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II got off to slow start in his last outing, missing his first four shots from 3-point range, but after finishing 1-for-5 against the Bulldogs he’s still at 49.1 percent for the season, which rates fourth in SEC. ... Senior forward Will Yeguete (5.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is coming off what might have been his best overall game of the season. He fell one point shy of his first double-double of the year (9 points, 10 rebounds in 28 minutes), but displayed consistent bounce on both ends for maybe the first time since undergoing knee surgery in the offseason.

The opponent: Savannah State has lost eight straight games, with their lone wins coming against Florida National and Tennessee Temple, two programs classified under the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. ... The Tigers lost to Pittsburgh by 33, North Florida twice (by 3 and 4), to Utah by 24, Arkansas by 29 and Miami by 17. ... Savannah has no starters averaging in double-figures, with backup senior guard Devin Williams (12.2) the top point man. Senior 6-9 forward Jyles Smith leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 per game. ... UF has never lost to a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (24-0, with all but two of those wins under Donovan). .. It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers after this one. They go on the road to face Baylor next week before tiping off their MEAC schedule. 

Key numbers:

* .000 - Freshman point guard Kasey Hill’s shooting percentage after the first seven 3-point shots of his career.

* 1.000 - Hill’s shooting percentage after his last three 3-point attempts. He made one vs. Memphis and two vs. Fresno.

* 5 - 3-point field goals from Frazier over the last four games. He made 22 over UF’s first seven games.

* 21 - Consecutive victories by Florida at the O’Dome. That’s the second-longest home streak in team history and the fifth-longest active in the nation behind Missouri (25), Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and Duke (23).

* 75.7 - Prather’s shooting percentage from the free-throw line, the only Gator player ranked in the top 32 SEC players in that category -- and the only one over 70 percent.

Watch for it: Savannah State averages just 61.9 points per game (that's 336th in the nation) and 32.4 rebounds (306th). Expect extended playing time for DeVon Walker and Jake Kurtz, who have been inched out of the regular rotation, and early minutes for walk-ons Billy Donovan and “Two-X” Lexx Edwards


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