Florida Gators: Patric Young

Florida's Prather steps in, steps up

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Casey Prather left the Florida locker room after the Gators’ 69-52 victory over Kentucky with a small red bump on his lower lip near the corner of his mouth.

That wasn’t a lot of damage for the 6-foot-6 swingman despite an evening of playing inside against the nation’s top shot-blocker and a 7-footer. The Gators hope he can hold up that well throughout the rest of the regular season.

That’s pretty much the only way UF can weather the loss of Will Yeguete and put itself in position to make another deep NCAA tournament run.

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Casey Prather
AP Photo/Phil SandlinCasey Prather scored 12 points and took three charges for the Gators.
"It [stepping in for Yeguete] wasn’t really in the back of my mind," Prather said after scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots, and dishing out two assists. "I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could."

The 6-7 Yeguete -- the Gators’ second-leading rebounder, best post defender, and the key to UF’s full-court press -- underwent surgery last Friday to clean out loose bodies in his right knee. Replacing part of Yeguete’s production fell to Prather, and he has embraced the challenge. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the Gators’ rout of Mississippi State last Saturday, but the Bulldogs sit in the SEC’s cellar and have won just seven games. It was going to be a much bigger task to do it against Kentucky and 6-10 Nerlens Noel, the nation’s leading shot-blocker (4.5 per game), and 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Prather not only held his own, he drew three charges and had a big first half to help the Gators rally from a slow start. With Erik Murphy on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, Prather scored eight points -- two of which came on a dunk in front of Cauley-Stein.

"It's just a matter of confidence with that guy," UF center Patric Young said. "Because, I know he can do that day in and day out. He's just really athletic with really active hands. It was a night where he could show what he can do."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Fourth-ranked Florida was finally tested in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday night.

The Gators had a little trouble, but they still aced it.

[+] EnlargeScottie Wilbekin
AP Photo/Phil SandlinFlorida's Scottie Wilbekin shoots a 3-pointer on his way to 13 points against Ole Miss.
Florida never trailed and led by double digits for more than 30 minutes in a 78-64 victory over Ole Miss in front of 12,522 at the O’Connell Center. The 14 points was the lowest margin of victory the Gators have had in SEC play -- and they still were never in danger of losing the game.

"This was our toughest game, by far," point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "They didn’t make it easy on us. We had to come out and play our best basketball. They had a lot of different weapons and we just had to try and shut them down."

Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC) had won its previous seven SEC games by an average of 28.3 points. The Gators had beaten four opponents by 31 or more points and the closest game they had played was a 17-point victory at Georgia -- a team they had beaten by 33 points to open league play.

Florida took a double-digit lead with 10 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the first half and Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2) never got closer than 12 points in the second half. That’s despite getting 25 points from Marshall Henderson, who made 7-of-11 3-pointers. The SEC’s leading scorer had to work for his points, though, and made several leaners and tough shots over Wilbekin and guard Kenny Boynton.

"He’s going to get his shots up," UF forward Erik Murphy said. "He’s going to get to the free-throw line. He’s really good at that. He’s crafty. We just wanted to try to limit his open shots. I think we did a pretty good job of that. He hit some tough ones. Some of the shots he hit, up-and-under, step-in, floater 3s, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody do that."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look at No. 4 Florida’s 78-64 victory over No. 16 Ole Miss on Saturday night at the O’Connell Center:

Overview: This one wasn’t as easy as the previous seven Southeastern Conference games, but the Gators still managed another double-digit victory.

Erik Murphy scored 19 points -- thanks to a 5-for-6 performance from 3-point range -- and grabbed six rebounds. Patric Young had a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Mike Rosario had 14 points.

Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2 SEC) scored the most points on Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC) since the Gators gave up 67 to Kansas State on Dec. 22. No team had scored more 61 since then. Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss with 25 points.

Turning point: Ole Miss cut Florida’s lead to 13 points with seven minutes remaining, but Murphy responded with a solid two-minute stretch on both ends of the floor that put the game out of reach.

Murphy hit a 3-pointer to put UF ahead 66-50 and then blocked Murphy Holloway’s shot. After a Young basket, Murphy grabbed a defensive rebound. The Gators turned the ball over, but Murphy made up for that by forcing another turnover that led to Scottie Wilbekin’s basket to put UF ahead 70-50 with five minutes to play.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- To celebrate Florida coach Billy Donovan’s 400th victory at the school, Gators center Patric Young lured Donovan into a separate part of the locker room and doused him with a watercooler full of ice water.

Donovan was stunned.

"Basketball coaches don’t have that happen to them very often," he said several moments later. "And I tell you what: That was really, really, really cold. I mean, really cold."

[+] EnlargeBilly Donovan
AP Photo/Phil SandlinBilly Donovan's Florida Gators have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.
But not as cold as what 10th-ranked Florida did to 17th-ranked Missouri on Saturday afternoon to give Donovan that milestone victory. The Gators dominated the Tigers in an 83-52 victory in front of 12,597 at the O’Connell Center in what was supposed to be a matchup of the top two teams in the SEC.

Florida held Missouri to a season-low 32.7 percent from the floor, forced 21 turnovers and took point guard Phil Pressey -- who was named the league’s preseason player of the year by the media -- completely out of the game. It was yet another stellar defensive performance from the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC), which have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.

"A 30-point victory against one of the best teams in the SEC -- it was just a great game for us," said Young, who had nine points and eight rebounds. "I know nobody expected that. I’m sure a lot of teams thought they were going to come in here and they were going to upset us. I know they thought they were going to upset us, but we were prepared so well for this game and we really wanted it."

That was evident from the opening tip. Young tapped the ball toward point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who took a couple of dribbles and scored on a layup just four seconds into the game.

It got worse for Missouri (13-4, 2-2) from there. The Gators raced out to an 11-0 lead in the first 3:14, and the Tigers pulled to within single digits only once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field during that opening stretch.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look at No. 10 Florida’s 83-52 victory against No. 17 Missouri on Saturday afternoon at the O’Connell Center:

Overview: This was supposed to be a battle between the SEC's two best teams.

That lasted less than five minutes.

Florida rolled out to a quick start and completely dominated the Tigers. In doing so, the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) have pretty much established themselves as the class of the league. Missouri (13-3, 2-2 SEC) was overwhelmed offensively and defensively, and ended up shooting a season-low 32.7 percent from the field.

Florida had four players score in double figures. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and 10 assists, forward Erik Murphy scored 15 points, and guard Kenny Boynton scored 14.

Turning point: How about the game’s first 3:14. Florida raced out to an 11-0 lead during that span, and Missouri only pulled within single digits once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field while Florida went 4-for-5. The Gators scored two baskets in the game’s first minute, including a big dunk by Patric Young, and that got the crowd in the sold-out O’Connell Center into the game pretty quickly.

Key player: Wilbekin had another dominant defensive performance. Two days after shutting down Texas A&M’s Elston Turner, Wilbekin blanketed Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, holding him to two points on 1 of 7 shooting. Pressey, who had been averaging 13.8 points 9.8 assists in his previous six games, had 6 assists and 10 turnovers.

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Weekend Watch: Florida-Arizona preview

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
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Mark Lyons and Kenny BoyntonUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMIDon't be surprised to see Kenny Boynton, left, and Mark Lyons take crucial shots on Saturday night.
Editor's note: Each Friday morning, Jay Bilas will break down the weekend's top game. This week it’s No. 5 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0) at 10 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

Gators outlook: The difference for Florida this season is defense. Last season, UF gave up 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and got hurt by being overextended. This season, the Gators are staying home more and packing it in. Instead of playing out in passing lanes and denying, they are playing off more, not playing as far up the line, and showing their chests to the ball and building a wall to protect the lane and the rim. That has meant fewer help rotations and better defensive rebounding, limiting opponents to one challenged shot (outrebounding opponents by 10.7 per game). The results are obvious. Florida has a top-five defense, and has done it with both man-to-man and zone. The Gators still press, speed the game and make you play at a speed you don’t practice. And they have done a great job of not just forcing turnovers, but converting off turnovers. Florida has scored more than twice as many points off turnovers as its opponents (21.3 to 9.9).

On the offensive end, UF is a ball-screen team that can really stretch out a defense, and really attacks and gets to the free throw line. Florida has made more free throws than its opponents have attempted. Four Gators average between 14.4 points and 10.3 points per game. This is a team that scored 74 points against Wisconsin, a team that gave up only 53 points per game last season, and blasted Marquette and Florida State.

Florida has good, experienced guards in Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin, a strong presence in Patric Young (an interior player who, when he keeps it simple, can be really effective), and an elite and versatile defender in Will Yeguete, who can defend multiple spots, get offensive rebounds and affect the game without scoring.

Wildcats outlook: Last season, Arizona was not a great shooting team, but could not compensate for it with second-shot opportunities or post-ups because Sean Miller did not have the personnel. This season, he has the personnel. The Wildcats have great size up front and very good depth. (But don’t listen to those who suggest that having big-guy depth gives you extra fouls to waste, which is silly. You don’t waste fouls, which puts your opponent at the free throw line for common fouls and leads to losses.) With freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett, Miller has two big men who can affect the game. Tarczewski is a traditional low-post banger who seeks out contact and can score around the goal, and is the team's top rebounder. Jerrett is a long-armed big man who can step away and knock in an open 3-point shot.

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Behind the Numbers: Florida-Arizona

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
12:40
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Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBilly Donovan and Kenny Boynton have worked to make Florida better.

The only top-10 matchup of the week takes place in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday night. Two 7-0 teams look to remain perfect when the eighth-ranked Arizona Wildcats host the fifth-ranked Florida Gators at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Fans at the McKale Center can only hope that this game will be as exciting as last year’s overtime thriller, won by Florida, 78-72.

Solomon Hill hit three free throws with 4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, when Erving Walker scored seven of Florida’s 12 points in the extra period to lead his team to the win.

Florida winning with ‘D’
The Gators have been one of the most dominant teams in the country at both ends of the floor during the first month.

Florida is ranked ninth in Division I in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. The only other team in the nation ranked in the top 10 in both of those categories is Indiana.

The Gators were strong offensively last season (sixth in offensive efficiency) but struggled defensively (135th in defensive efficiency). They have transformed themselves in several areas on the defensive end this year.

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Military trip resonates with Gators

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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ABOARD THE USS BATAAN -- Erik Murphy sat with his Florida basketball teammates in a hotel meeting room last Thursday night and listened to one of the most horrifying and uplifting stories he had ever heard.

Army veteran Andrew Coughlan described surviving a mortar attack in Iraq because another soldier jumped on top of him to shield him from the explosion. The other soldier, Coughlan’s best friend in the unit, didn’t survive.

Coughlan talked about his grief over his friend’s death and the loss of other friends in the Iraq war. He was wracked with guilt over having survived when others didn’t. He described what it was like to come home and live with that memory. And finally, he talked about accepting what happened and deciding to live for the soldiers who didn’t come back.

"His story was just ... it’s so like ... I really don’t know how to explain it," Murphy said. "It was unreal. It was an unreal story sitting in the room listening to it. You can hear how it affected him, how it changed his life, and how it first affected him negatively and then he took that and changed it to a positive. He’s telling the story just to help other people. It’s something special."

That was the most powerful moment the Gators experienced during a two-day span that culminated with the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Naval Station Mayport on Friday night. But there were plenty of others that affected UF’s players.

In touring the Bataan on Thursday, the Gators met various members of the military. Some were officers and some were enlisted men and women. Some were older, but some were their age -- or even younger. Even though the players know there are thousands of men and women just a few years out of high school serving in the military, it didn’t really sink in until they met some of them.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan's decision to suspend PG Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely means the job of directing the Gators' offense will fall to senior Kenny Boynton.

Boynton has run the point in spurts through the past three seasons, mainly in relief of starting PG Erving Walker, who graduated as the school's all-time assist leader. Boynton, who is on pace to become the school's all-time leading scorer, is the Gators' top man defender, so his role there won't change.

The bigger issue for Donovan is finding someone to replace the 6-foot-2 Wilbekin in the starting lineup for Friday's season opener against Georgetown and to relieve Boynton when he's on the bench. Donovan could slide 6-3 Mike Rosario into the shooting guard spot to go along with 6-9 C Patric Young, 6-10 F Erik Murphy and 6-7 F Will Yeguete.

Or Donovan could go with 6-6 freshman Michael Frazier, who scored 21 points in UF's exhibition victory over Nebraska-Kearney. Even if Rosario starts, Wilbekin's suspension will mean more playing time for Frazier and two other freshmen: 6-4 Dillon Graham and 6-0 Braxton Ogbueze. The Gators cannot use 6-6 G/F Casey Prather on Friday because he is out with a concussion.

"This throws a wrench," Donovan said. "We've got to do some things in practice to make some adjustments going into this game.

"The biggest thing for me as a coach is how do I get these guys to understand what they're doing because there's going to be a lot of different lineups on the floor."

Donovan has a track record of successfully juggling lineups. He got the Gators to the Elite Eight last season after losing Yeguete -- the Gators' top post defender and key cog in their press -- to a broken foot in February.

Gators solve scholarship problem

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
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Patric YoungChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesFlorida junior center Patric Young is feeling good now after missing three weeks due to mononucleosis.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s basketball scholarship problem resolved itself over the summer after coach Billy Donovan decided not to renew redshirt sophomore Cody Larson’s scholarship because Larson failed to meet requirements that Donovan set throughout the season and during the offseason.

"There were some things I wanted him to do during the course of the year [and] he knew there was a possibility [that if] he didn’t do these things there was a chance he may not be back and he came up short on those things," Donovan said Wednesday during the team’s annual media day. "I’ve been through some different situations with Cody in trying to help him get better on the court, off the court, in the classroom, and taking care of responsibilities, and it was something he was not doing."

Donovan said he spoke with Larson and his family and said Larson was welcome to return as a nonscholarship player or the coach would approve a transfer. The 6-foot-9, 239-pound Larson, who averaged 0.5 points and 0.8 rebounds in 25 games last season, decided to come back.

"The decision to stay wasn’t hard at all," Larson said. "I know I wanted to stay under Coach Donovan. Not even talking basketball, just being under Coach Donovan is the best thing for me in my life."

UF had to lose one scholarship for this season anyway because the Gators had exceeded the NCAA maximum of 13. Florida signed freshmen Michael Frazier II, Dillon Graham, Braxton Ogbueze and DeVon Walker, and added transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris.

Young healthy again
Center Patric Young says he has fully recovered from a bout of mononucleosis that kept him out of action for three weeks.

"It was tough at first," Young said. "We had our conditioning test this past Tuesday and I passed all the runs, made my times, so I’ll be ready for practice come tomorrow."

Young was diagnosed when classes began in August. He had a severe sore throat, a fever, and was too fatigued to participate in a scheduled workout. After a trip to a doctor, he was diagnosed with mono. He missed three weeks, and Young said it was pretty rough at times.

The 6-9, 249-pound junior said his roommate, teammate Will Yeguete, was worried.

"He said I was looking miserable," Young joked. "He thought I was on my deathbed for a little bit."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida center Patric Young is suffering from mononucleosis but is expected to be fine when the Gators begin practice Oct. 12.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said Young, who averaged 10.2 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds last season, has missed the past three weeks while recuperating but should return to workouts Wednesday. He was diagnosed when classes began in late August.

"I think he’s going to be fine, but there’s going to be some stamina issues with him because he hasn’t done anything for three weeks," Donovan said. "We’ve got plenty of time where we can get him back to that point."

Donovan said the 6-foot-9, 249-pound junior had been having a good offseason until he got sick, but the coach added that the time away might actually help Young because it’ll be extra motivation for him to fix the stamina issues that affected him last season.

"I think it could be a blessing in disguise," Donovan said. "He’s been away from it and missed it and he realizes he’s not in shape, and the other guys are and he has to push himself to get himself back in shape."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan was upbeat on Friday during the news conference announcing Bradley Beal's decision to enter the NBA Draft.

[+] EnlargeBradley Beal
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesGators coach Billy Donovan said he will miss Bradley Beal's team-first attitude and work ethic.
He is obviously sad to see Beal leave, but Donovan shouldn't be devastated for two reasons: He knows things could have been a lot worse, and he had been planning for just this situation.

As the season ended with a loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight, there was speculation the Gators would lose four of their five starters. Erving Walker is graduating, but Beal, Patric Young and Kenny Boynton were also considering leaving. Young and Boynton, however, elected to stay, which means the Gators will have one of the Southeastern Conference's top scorers and big men on the floor in 2012-13.


PHOENIX -- There is nowhere to hide. There are no secrets to keep and no shocking, revolutionary game plans to unveil.

With Louisville and Florida, this would also be the case in November: Is there a high-profile coaching duo as familiar with one another as Rick Pitino and his former star player and pupil, Billy Donovan? No.

That familiarity will play a factor, no doubt ... but it's also the default situation for any two teams squaring off with a Final Four berth on the line. By this point, the Cardinals and Gators are what they are. Both teams have revealed themselves in their three NCAA tournament victories to date. And both coaches will prepare their teams accordingly.

What do those preparations entail?

There's the obvious strength-on-strength matchup: Over the course of the season, Florida's offense has been one of the best and most efficient in the country. As of Friday's pregame press conferences, the Gators ranked No. 3 in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.com. Louisville, meanwhile, has likewise been a great defensive team all season -- after Thursday night's historically brutal lockdown of No. 1-seeded Michigan State, the Cardinals rank No. 1 in the nation in defensive efficiency.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch for in Saturday's Florida-Louisville matchup in the Elite 8 (4:30 p.m. ET on CBS) in Phoenix, Ariz.

Man in the middle: Louisville center Gorgui Dieng presents the same kind of trouble for the Gators as Kentucky's Anthony Davis. He's a shot-blocking machine who should make smaller guards Erving Walker (5-foot-8) and Kenny Boynton (6-1) think twice about driving the lane. The 6-11 Dieng already has Louisville's single-season blocks record (123 and counting) and is averaging 9.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Against Michigan State on Thursday, Dieng tied his career high with seven blocks and added nine rebounds, five points and three steals. He's had at least five blocks in a game 11 times this season. Florida can't allow him to control the paint the way he did against the Spartans. It'll be up to 6-9 center Patric Young to make Dieng guard him and try to get him in foul trouble.

Defense, defense, defense: Louisville isn't particularly big, but the Cardinals are long and athletic, and those are the kind of teams the Gators have struggled with the past few seasons. Louisville has been thriving because of its defense. The Cardinals are third nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.7 percent) and have been fantastic in the NCAA tournament, limiting Davidson to 35 percent from the field and holding New Mexico to 56 points, which was its fourth-lowest point total of the season. Michigan State managed just 44 points, including 18 in the first half. Florida's defense has held its three NCAA tournament opponents to an average of 51.0 points and Virginia, Norfolk State and Marquette shot a combined 20.6 percent from 3-point range (13-for-63) and 31.5 percent from the field. The Gators are also averaging 43.0 rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament, which has limited opponents' second shot opportunities.

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PHOENIX -- The No. 7 seeds in the 2012 NCAA tournament were as follows:

Notre Dame. Saint Mary's. Gonzaga. Florida.

Sing it with me now: One of these things is not like the others.

For starters, Florida was the only No. 7 seed to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, and the only one -- after Thursday's 68-58 victory over Marquette -- to reach the Elite Eight and the one-game-from-the-Final-Four precipice it so intensely entails.

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