Wilbekin rises to challenge vs. Tigers

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin smiles on the bench as he talks with teammate Mike Rosario, left, during the second half of Saturday's game against Missouri.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:51 p.m.

Scottie Wilbekin only had 36 hours to prepare for the SEC Preseason Player of the Year. He even had a few papers to write.

Still, that was enough time for Wilbekin to not only shut down Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, but to put together his best overall performance as a Gator in Florida's 83-52 win over Missouri.

“Every time I'm playing against somebody who's obviously a well-known, good player is a personal challenge for me, but it's also a challenge for the rest of the team,” said Wilbekin, who got the bulk of the assignment against Pressey, forcing him into a career-high 10 turnovers. “Each player holds each other accountable.”

Just two days after holding Texas A&M's Elston Turner to four points on 1-for-10 shooting, Wilbekin's pesky defense left Pressey with only two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

“Scottie's really good. I played with him in AAU. I played against him in high school,” said junior forward Will Yeguete. “I think it's a whole team effort (defensively), and it starts with Scottie obviously.”

The offense was also sparked by Wilbekin on Saturday, starting with his bucket that came four seconds into the contest. The junior went on to record his first career double-double with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting with 10 assists.

The Gainesville native did it all, whether it was tossing an alley-oop to Patric Young, whipping a cross-court pass to a wide-open Mike Rosario for a 3-pointer, taking it to the hoop for points himself or bottling up one of the SEC's elite point guards.

And with about six minutes to go, Wilbekin officially turned the O'Dome into what he later called “a rock concert.”

His acrobatic layup on a fast break brought the sold-out O'Connell Center crowd of 12,597 to its feet. Thirty seconds later, the decibel level peaked when Wilbekin took his third steal of the game up the floor and dished his final assist to Yeguete, who threw it down with two hands.

“Other teams can take it however they want,” Wilbekin said. “All I know is they're going to get a great effort when they play us, and they're going to get five guys tuned in on defense and locked in and ready to play the right way.”

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