Gator bench making progress, showing its depth


The Florida Gators bench reacts as a teammate shoots a three-pointer against the Jackson State Tigers during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Nov. 11 in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.

Early in Southeastern Conference play, Florida's bench was a liability.

The No. 17 Gators were outscored 25-1 off the bench earlier in the month in a 67-56 loss at Tennessee. Junior guard Mike Rosario was limited coming off an ankle sprain, and the rest of UF's bench had more turnovers (two) than points.

But Florida (15-4, 3-1 SEC) has gotten better production off its bench during its current three-game winning streak. The Gators outscored LSU's bench 24-10 in its 76-64 win over the Tigers on Saturday night at the O'Connell Center.

UF improved to 8-0 when its bench outscored the other team's. Florida's bench hasn't been outscored since the Tennessee loss. The Gators outscored Georgia's bench 16-2 and were even (14-14) with South Carolina.

“Our bench is deep and everybody provides something different,” Florida junior forward Erik Murphy said. “It's always good to get that kind of production off the bench.”

Rosario has helped spark UF's bench production by becoming more committed to both ends of the floor. The Rutgers transfer had 11 points against LSU and is averaging 9.3 points in his last three games.

Rosario has been getting it done defensively with four steals in his last three games.

“Coach told me to stick my nose in there whenever I can to try to slap the ball and try to get a steal,” Rosario said.

Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin also had a strong game off the bench against LSU with five points and three assists. Wilbekin made both of his shot attempts from the floor, including the second of back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Gators ahead 48-32.

Florida also has been getting unexpected contributions off the bench from sophomore center Patric Young. Young (ankle tendinitis) hasn't been healthy enough to start the past two games, but provided important offense early for the Gators. With Florida down 10-4 early to LSU, Young scored six straight points on three inside baskets to tie the score at 10.

“We have to get him to where he's playing, even if it's three or four minutes, with an incredible burst of energy,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “When he does that, I think it totally changes the complexion of our team.”

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