The question isn't 'Will UF beat Savannah State?' It's "how bad will it be?'
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
No. 2 FLORIDA (16-0) vs. SAVANNAH STATE (1-17)
7 p.m. tonight at the O-Dome on AM-850
Savannah State's ranking is based on the Ratings Percentage Index, which measures wins and losses based on strength of schedule. The Tigers (1-17) won against Wilberforce University, but have yet to beat a Division I opponent.
For the undefeated Gators (16-0), the question might not hinge on if they will win, but how quickly coach Billy Donovan will go to his reserves. Donovan went to his bench early in a similar situation two weeks ago against Morgan State.
"I'm fine with them," Donovan said. "I think we're a basketball team where different players have stepped up at different times."
The Florida bench is composed of a fifth-year senior center (Adrian Moss), an emerging third-year junior forward (Chris Richard) and two freshmen guards (Walter Hodge and David Huertas). There also are walk-ons Jack Berry, Brett Swanson and Garrett Tyler, who combined to score the last 11 points against Morgan State.
Donovan expected more bodies last summer, but incoming freshman Derwin Kitchen was unable enroll for academic reasons. Freshman forward Jimmie Sutton was lost for the season with a medical redshirt in November after a torn ACL in his knee never fully recovered from offseason surgery.
Still, the bench has flourished, with Moss and Richard as its biggest contributors.
Richard has reached double figures in scoring in six of 16 games this season, averaging 7.3 points with an astronomical shooting percentage (75.4 percent, 46-61). On Saturday against Auburn, Richard provided a spark, scoring 7 points in a 1:31 span during a deciding 10-0 run.
"The last time I did something like that was in high school," said Richard, a former Florida Mr. Basketball from Lakeland Kathleen.
Moss, from Humble, Texas, has overcome back and knee surgeries in a seven-month span to appear in every game this season. He is averaging 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds, but provided important minutes late in wins against Wake Forest and Miami.
Moss redshirted his freshman year at Florida and coming out of high school didn't even expect to be around for the 2005-06 season.
"It's been a blessing in disguise," Moss said. "I could be doing nothing right now, but I'll be finishing with my degree this spring.
"It's been a learning experience. I learned that life is what you make of it. That the harder you work, the more you get out of it. I learned that a lot from my first two years playing basketball here."
Of the freshman guards, the 6-foot Hodge is usually the first to come off the bench. His 21 steals in limited minutes have been impressive. The 6-4 Huertas is still developing, but he has produced as advertised - a long-range shooter who is 8 of 21 (38.1 percent) from 3-point range.
The bench could take on added importance the rest of the way, because Florida has no byes between now and the end of the SEC season. In wins against Mississippi State and Auburn, starting point guard Taurean Green played 38 minutes and 37 minutes, respectively .
At this point, Donovan is more concerned about mental fatigue than physical fatigue.
"If I had to pick one or the other, I would say mentally," Donovan said. "I would like to see them grow. On the physical part, I think our guys compete and play hard. They go after things well.
"Could they get a little stronger? Yeah, probably, but I'd like to see our basketball team do well on the other side. That doesn't mean that we're bad there, but when you're young like we are, there are experiences that our guys haven't gone through, yet."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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