Rosario shows flashes vs. Georgia


Florida guard Mike Rosario, left, and forward Cody Larson celebrate after a play against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2011, Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 5:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 5:52 p.m.

During an injury-filled, inconsistent season, Florida junior guard Mike Rosario said he's trying to stay positive.

Facts

Saturday's game

Who: Florida at South Carolina
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
Gainesville-area TV: CSS (Cox Channel 199)
Gainesville-area radio: WRUF

“It's all challenges,” Rosario said. “I've been through a lot of challenges to this point in life. I look at it as ‘OK, This is another bump I've got to get over.' ”

Rosario showed signs of his high-caliber offensive ability, scoring seven straight points off the bench during UF's 70-48 win over Georgia on Tuesday night.

Rosario's seven points, all in the first half, came on a three-point play in transition, a baseline floater and another transition layup that extended an early UF lead to 18-9. The Rutgers transfer also added 2 assists and 2 steals in 16 minutes off the bench.

“Mike Rosario had a really great two days (of practice), Sunday and Monday, going into this game,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “And I think it showed up a little bit in the first half.”

For Rosario, it's been an up-and-down first year playing at Florida. The former McDonald's All-American 6-foot-3 guard accepted the role as UF's sixth man, scoring a season-high 19 points in his Florida debut. But he quickly got in Donovan's doghouse for not playing with enough intensity on defense.

Rosario said he understood the message his coach was sending.

“I'm trying to be mature as a man,” Rosario said. “You gotta take on challenges and be responsible for your actions. That says a lot about you as a man. That's what Coach D really wants us to focus on, being responsible and being on edge.”

Then, the injury bug hit. Rosario had issues working out in the fall due to bulging discs in his lower back. The back problems flared up in December, forcing Rosario to sit out a pair of games against Mississippi Valley State and Florida State.

Rosario returned for UF's matchup at Rutgers, but it wasn't a happy homecoming. He was booed every time he touched the ball and finished with just 5 points and a turnover in 14 minutes.

“It was tough because I couldn't play to the best of my ability and I felt like I was letting down my teammates,” Rosario said. “I told myself I got to get in there as much as I can and do treatment, do what I need to do to get back feeling right.”

Rosario missed Florida's final non-conference game against UAB with a sprained ankle and played just two minutes off the bench against Tennessee. But with more minutes against Georgia, Rosario displayed his ability to generate points in bunches. In his final season at Rutgers, Rosario ranked ninth in the Big East in scoring at 16.7 ppg.

“Mike always has been a proven scorer,” Donovan said. “What he did was not uncharacteristic of his ability. But getting those points — 7 points in the first half — that helps your team.”

Case in point: Behind 7 points from Rosario, UF's bench outscored Georgia's bench 16-8. With Rosario limited against Tennessee, Tennessee's bench outscored UF's bench 25-1.

“Mike, in the first half, gave us a different dimension than maybe we've had because of his injury with his ankle and not being able to play,” Donovan said.

At Rutgers, Rosario was the primary scoring option. At Florida, Rosario is still trying to blend in with a team that includes perimeter scorers Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker. He's averaging 8.3 points per game this season in 16.2 minutes per game.

Healthwise, Rosario said following the Georgia game he's continuing a treatment schedule on his back and doesn't expect any more flare-ups.

“It felt good to just be able to go out there and compete and play hard,” Rosario said. “I'm so happy that I'm feeling better and I'm a lot healthier now. I've got a lot I can bring to the table.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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