Big men take center stage against Ohio State


Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, left, squared off with Florida and Patric Young last season in Gainesville with the Buckeyes winning. (The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11:34 p.m.

Florida sophomore center Patric Young recalled the last time he faced Ohio State center Jared Sullinger.

Facts

Gator GameTime

Who: No. 7 Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes
When: Tonight, 8
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Gainesville TV: ESPN2
Gainesville radio: AM-850

It was over the summer, at the Adidas Classic in Los Angeles.

What did Young remember about the meeting between space-eating big men?

“He was finishing everything,” Young said of Sullinger. “And he was big.”

No. 7 Florida will face the first of several big non-conference tests when it plays tonight at No. 3 Ohio State. The subplot of the game is the matchup between the 247-pound Young and 265-pound Sullinger, two former McDonald's All-Americans considered two of the top centers in college basketball.




Sullinger, a sophomore preseason All-American, scored 26 points in Ohio State's 93-75 win at Florida last season. All of his points came around the basket. He made 13 of 17 shots, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“He's got the LeBron James effect,” Young said, “He makes everyone so much better just by being himself and the game comes so easy to him.”

Sullinger has mutual respect for UF's starting center. The two have gone head-to-head throughout their high school travel-league careers.

“Patric is physical and athletic, and he's getting better every year,” Sullinger said. “Every year he adds something to his game. He's a hard worker.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the Gators will take a team approach defending Sullinger.

“I don't think it's just Patric against Sullinger,” Donovan said. “ I think our whole team has got to really help out. If we put Patric or Murph (Erik Murphy) or Cody (Larson) or any of those guys on an island against him, it's going to be difficult.”

Sullinger picked up where he left off last season, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds in Ohio State's season opener against Wright State. During the offseason, Sullinger dropped his body fat from 16.7 to 12.1 percent. He's tried to expand his shooting range, even making a 3-pointer against Wright State.

“The best part of his game to me is he's such a smart player,” Donovan said. “ And when you are playing against a smart player there is not one thing you can do to take him out of the game. And anytime when you are dealing with a post player and there is shooting around him, if you start trying to run and trap him, you are giving up shots.

“And he's pretty good when he sees (defenses) regularly so I think change is something that's going to be important. We can't play him the same way all the time.”

Young said the gameplan in facing Sullinger is to keep him off the boards and not allow him to get easy baskets.

“He's going to get his points here and there,” Young said. “Just don't let him get anything easy. He scores a lot of points off offensive rebounds, so keep him off of that.”

Young also said he feels if the Gators can contain Sullinger, they can pull off the upset.

“They don't have the same leadership in (David) Lighty and (Jon) Dielber that they had last year,” Young said. “We feel like we have an opportunity to disrupt those guys because we feel like the chemistry is not as good as it was last year because of the leadership they had last year.”

Young is coming off his first career double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in UF's season-opening win against Jackson State. He had just one foul. Young said Florida's firepower on the perimeter (Florida made 13 of 30 3-pointers against Jackson State) gives him more room to work inside.

“It makes everything so much easier for me because it opens up opportunities for one-on-one situations,” Young said. “When I have pressure, I can dump the ball out.”

Ohio State coach Thad Matta is concerned about Florida's shooting from the perimeter.

“Their guard play has been tremendous,” Matta said. “The two games we've watched this year have been what I consider routs. Half their shots are threes. They're really looking to strike quick in transition.”

Likewise, Donovan is concerned about Ohio State's perimeter threats. Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft had no problems handling UF's press last season and went on to make the All-Big Ten defensive team. And senior swingman William Buford, who shot 44.2 percent from 3-point range last season, has a chance to finish his career as Ohio State's all-time leading scorer.

“There's also other guys on their team that are good players too,” Donovan said. “And that is certainly what makes them a team that's ranked so high and such a preseason favorite in a lot of people's eyes, just because they have a lot of answers at a lot of different positions.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 19. 0ppg, 3.0 rpg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 10.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 14.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg

F Erik Murphy 6-10 Jr. 6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 So. 12.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg

OHIO STATE PROBABLE STARTERS

G Lenzelle Smith Jr. 6-4 So. 8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

G Aaron Craft 6-2 So. 10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

F William Buford 6-6 Sr. 13.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

F Deshaun Thomas 6-7 So. 9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg

C Jared Sullinger 6-9 So. 19.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg

Notes:Florida is 4-7 all-time against Ohio State and 2-2 against OSU under Billy Donovan. … Ohio State downed the Gators 93-75 last year at the O'Connell Center. … Sophomore OSU center Jared Sullinger scored 26 points in that game for the Buckeyes. ... Florida is coming off an impressive 99-59 season-opening win against Jackson State. … Junior guard Mike Rosario, a transfer from Rutgers, had 19 points and 3 assists off the bench. ... The Gators shot 43.3 percent (13-30) from 3-point range … Senior point guard Erving Walker had 217 career 3-pointers, 71 shy of Lee Humphrey's school record (288).

— Kevin Brockway

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