Florida outmuscles visiting Florida State

Florida Gators center Patric Young (4) blocks the shot of Florida State Seminoles forward Bernard James (5) during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in Gainesville. Florida defeated Florida State 82-64.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:29 p.m.

If you wanted to show one play to explain how Florida easily handled Florida State on Thursday night, his was it.

Patric Young didn't just block a dunk attempt by Bernard James, he ripped the ball out of the air. Then dunked on the other end.

“I'll be very disappointed if it's not on SportsCenter Top 10 plays,” Young said. “They'll probably use the whole thing. ‘Here you see Patric Young with the block and the steal, and here he is back down on the other end with the dunk.' ”

It was a spectacular play on a violent night of basketball. And Florida showed something special against the Seminoles.

You want to play tough and physical, let's go.

“We beat them up on defense,” said freshman Bradley Beal.

FSU came onto the court with the reputation of being the great defensive team. Florida left the court having out-defensed the Seminoles.

On a night when every FSU defender seemed to have three arms and one of them was always grabbing or hacking, Florida pushed back.

“The perception is they'll get pushed around or may be soft,” Billy Donovan said of his team. “I think we're a pretty tough group.”

That pretty tough group forced 19 turnovers, had 12 steals and three blocked shots. That's what Young was credited with on the play of the night, a block. It could have been a steal.

“Is it both?” he asked.

Sure, why not?

“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I knew he was going to dunk it. The guy has an 8-foot wing span.”

Not long enough.

“I started laughing a little bit,” Beal said. “That's amazing. Not many people can do that.”

If that play epitomized the game, there were plenty of other lines that told the story of the night. Will Yeguete continues to have the kind of lines you want to see from him — four points, eight rebounds, three steals. Erving Walker made only 1-of-7 shots, but had seven assists and jump-started the Gators at the free-throw line after they missed their first seven tries.

Young didn't miss a shot from the field, sometimes scoring despite the Hack-a-Pat defense the Seminoles were using. And Beal had one of his best games with 21 points and six rebounds.

It was Beal who had the bookends on the 15-2 run in the second half that pretty much put the game away. He made a three-point play to start the run and a 3-point shot to end it.

And it is Beal who has softened the sting of the departure of graduated Chandler Parsons. With Florida undersized, Beal has to rebound and he has. On Thursday night, he had six — five of them on the defensive end.

Still, this wasn't a game about stat lines or Florida's five scorers in double figures.

It was about Florida's defense.

When you score like the Gators do, you're going to get a reputation.

That rep was destroyed Thursday night.

“That defensive intensity,” Young said. “They couldn't score in the halfcourt. They were being portrayed as the best defense in the state. We wanted to show that we're the best offensive and best defensive team in the state.”

They will get no arguments. Certainly, FSU is an offensively challenged team. Early in the game, they were throwing up so many bricks you thought they would have to replace the backboards at halftime.

Still, if you were at the O-Dome and watched a game that received an NC-17 rating because of the violence, you know how tough the Gators played against FSU.

“I thought the game was going to be about our physicality,” Donovan said.

These Gators go into the Christmas break with some bruises that hurt so good. And then there's this, the quote from FSU coach Leonard Hamilton:

“This Florida team is at least the most difficult team for us to beat, at least since I've been at Florida State.”

Enjoy the holidays, fellas.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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