Donovan getting most out of Yeguete


Florida forward Will Yeguete and teammate Patric Young let out a yell following a play near the end of the second half against Arizona on Dec. 7, 2011.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 12:09 a.m.

Florida sophomore forward Will Yeguete has embraced the challenge of guarding the best big man on the opposing team.

Facts

Today's game

Who: No. 12 Florida Gators (17-4, 5-1 SEC) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (9-11, 1-5 SEC)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center
Gainesville-area TV: ESPN2
Radio: 103.7 FM

“It's really exciting knowing that he's not going to score on me, he's going to have a hard time scoring,” Yeguete said.

The No. 12 Gators will be counting on continued strong post defense from Yeguete tonight when they face South Carolina. Yeguete's defensive ability has made Florida coach Billy Donovan comfortable enough to start the 6-foot-7 forward while bringing sophomore center Patric Young off the bench.

“I feel like I've grown into it because I feel like you have a role on the team,” Yeguete said. “Coach D wants me to have this role so if that's what he wants me to do for the team to win, then I'll do it.”

Last Saturday against Mississippi State, Yeguete answered the challenge of guarding Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie.

Moultrie finished with a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) but also fouled out. He was held to four points below his scoring average on 4-of-10 shooting from the floor.

Against the 6-foot-11 Moultrie, Yeguete said his goal was to stay aggressive, forcing Moultrie out of his comfort zone by guarding his opening dribble. Yeguete took one of two charges called against Moultrie.

“I really wanted to stop him and I think we did a pretty good job as a team because they are a really good one-on-one team,” Yeguete said. “I take it personally when there is a really good player I have to guard from another team.”

Yeguete, who grabbed 15 rebounds in his second career game against North Carolina A&T, proved as a freshman his ability to defend and rebound. But offense was another issue.

“His biggest problem a year ago was that he led our team in turnovers per minute,” Donovan said. “It became very difficult to play him because when he touched the ball, there was a good chance he was going to turn it over.”

Donovan said he thinks Yeguete has improved both his decision-making and passing.

“He still has some lapses there,” Donovan said. “Even though, offensively, he's not a perimeter 3-point shooter and he's not a guy that's going to take a lot of jump shots and he's not a great back-to-the-basket player, he still has a great ability to go offensive rebound.“

Yeguete showed flashes of his offensive potential in his last game against South Carolina, scoring a career-high 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the floor. His free-throw shooting (9 for 30, 30 percent) still needs work, but senior point guard Erving Walker said he has a better understanding of the offense. That understanding allowed Yeguete to find open spots in South Carolina's zone defense and convert easy baskets.

“He's done a great job since he's been here,” Walker said. “Last year we were a little bit deeper at his position, and he worked hard every day in practice. He's getting an opportunity this year and he's making the most of it.”

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

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 17.2 ppg, 3.0 apg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 12.6 ppg, 5.0 apg

G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 14.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 So. 4.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg

C Erik Murphy 6-10 Jr. 10.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg

SOUTH CAROLINA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Damien Leonard 6-4 Fr. 6.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg

G Bruce Ellington 5-9 So. 10.8 ppg, 2.4 apg

F Malik Cooke 6-6 Sr. 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg

F Anthony Gill 6-8 Fr. 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg

F Damontre Harris 6-9 So. 6.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg

Notes: Florida is facing South Carolina for the second time this season. The Gators beat South Carolina 79-64 in Columbia, S.C. ... Florida is 38-22 all-time against South Carolina and 22-11 under coach Billy Donovan. … Sophomore center Patric Young has averaged 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds off the bench in his last four games. … The Gators lead the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage and are averaging 10.6 3-pointers per game. … South Carolina has taken the fewest free throws in the SEC (296), but is second in the SEC in free-throw percentage (70.6 percent). … Florida has won 17 straight at home. The Gators are in the middle of a three-game homestand that will conclude Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Three things to watch

1. Stopping Ellington

South Carolina sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington has always been a tough matchup for the Gators. Ellington scored 17 points in his previous meeting against Florida, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. “He can score,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He's got deep range. He's got a different burst than most guards because of his explosiveness so he can break a double team and get down the lane and use his athleticism and finish at the rim.” Look for Florida to mix and match Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton on Ellington throughout the game.

2. Patric's production

Patric Young is growing accustomed to his new role off the bench. It's allowed Young to stay more fresh in the second half. Young, who turned 20 on Wednesday, scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half against Ole Miss and 10 of his 12 points in the second half against Mississippi State. In both games, Young was able to consistently beat big men down the floor for easy baskets.

3. Taking care of the ball

South Carolina ranks second in the SEC in steals at 7.4 per game and forces 14.7 turnovers per game. It will be a test for UF's guards to take care of the ball and avoid careless turnovers. The Gators have been good with the ball of late, committing just 11 turnovers in their past two games.

Three questions

1. Can Florida keep South Carolina sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington in check?

2. Can Patric Young continue his strong play off the bench?

3. Can the Gators limit turnovers and keep South Carolina from scoring off turnovers in open floor situations?

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