Gators looking to reserves
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Florida showed in its first road win of the season that its frontcourt had more to offer than just sophomore center Patric Young.
With Young still hobbled by an ankle injury, the rest of the frontcourt will need to remain ready for UF's next game Saturday at home against LSU.
The 6-foot-9, 247-pound Young is Florida's most physical frontcourt player. The No. 17 Gators (14-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) will be facing an LSU team that ranks third in the SEC in scoring defense (60.7 ppg) and third in field goal percentage defense (39.2 percent).
“Pat is obviously a big part of our team,” Florida junior forward Erik Murphy said. “He's going through a little bit of an injury, and we've got to pick up the slack, step up. All of us collectively as a group need to.”
Young was held out of practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, but is expected to play Saturday. However, Young could be limited to a bench role again if his ankle isn't closer to 100 percent.
With Young only playing 13 minutes off the bench last Saturday at South Carolina, Murphy and sophomore forward Will Yeguete produced in increased roles. Murphy had 11 points and 4 assists, while Yeguete finished 6 of 6 from the floor with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive,” Yeguete said.
The 6-foot-7 Yeguete has maintained his prowess on the boards. He's averaging 6.4 rebounds per game in 21.8 minutes per game, an average of close to one rebound for every three minutes on the floor.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said the keys to Yeguete's rebounding are his instincts, his leg strength and his overall athletic ability.
“The biggest thing in being a rebounder is being able to rebound out of your area,” Donovan said. “Anybody can rebound in a telephone booth, but can you spread out and cover the backboard a little bit. And Will's got a pretty good ability to cover a wide spread of the glass with his arm length, and he's a pretty quick jumper.”
Yeguete has started six games this season. The previous five came when Murphy went down with a knee injury.
“He's a huge asset to our team,” Murphy said. “Defensively. I think he's one of the best defenders on our team. He's got a crazy nose for the ball. He gets his hand on balls. He can guard any position. In practice, he picks (Erving Walker) and no one picks Erv in practice.”
The 6-foot-10 Murphy has matured into a more consistent player on both ends of the floor. He has a team-high 21 blocked shots this season and has blocked 14 in his last seven games.
“He's becoming more and more reliable for me than maybe he had been the first two years, where we would get some pretty good moments from him and then he would disappear,” Donovan said. “He still has some of those moments, but I think he's grown up and become a much, much more consistent player.”
Murphy just recently had eight stitches removed from his eye, the result of an elbow from Young. He also missed five games earlier this season with a bruised knee.
“This year, playing a little different role than I have in the past, I'm basically coming out and trying to do everything the team needs and coach asks for,” Murphy said. “I'm mentally prepared more for practices and for games on a day-to-day basis than I have been in the past.”
Murphy said Young has been favoring his ankle less when walking around the UF basketball facility. Young took part in some light drills Tuesday and Wednesday.
“He's getting better every day,” Murphy said. “He looks like he's not laboring on it as much.”
Donovan said he also could turn to redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson if Young is still limited for the LSU game.
“I'm gaining more and more confidence and trust in Cody,” Donovan said. “I've put him in now the last several games, and he's given us some good minutes.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.