Young holds his own in battle of big men
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 12:40 a.m.
Twitter was blowing up, and it was in Patric Young's face.
The Florida junior wanted to avoid it in the days leading up to the big Tuesday night game against Kentucky, but the smack talk came anyway.
“I had it loaded on my phone so I couldn't get it off,” he said. “But I wasn't buying into it.”
The tweets were mostly about the things Nerlens Noel was going to do to Young in the battle of the big men. Unfortunately, the battle ended early when Noel went down with what looked (and sounded) like a serious knee injury.
But even before that it was Young who was putting on a show.
In a game where one team decided to make the game a war of the paint, Florida showed it has no problem playing that way. When the score flashed on the crawls across America, fans who missed the game probably figured Florida won with a bunch of 3-pointers and defense.
The defense was there, but this was a physical game and the grown men beat the young boys.
“Their guards were jerking the ball out of our guys' hands,” Calipari said. “And we couldn't get near the rim against Young.”
The Wildcats came out with an obvious gameplan to go inside on offense and force Florida to go inside when the Gators had the ball. The thinking was twofold — get UF's only two big men in foul trouble and don't let the Gators beat them with the 3-point shot.
On the defensive end, it didn't look good early when both Young and Erik Murphy picked up a foul just 2:14 into the game.
With Will Yeguete sidelined, Billy Donovan has lost the third head of his three-headed defensive presence inside. Fortunately for the Gators, Young played the rest of the half with only one more foul and still picked up three blocked shots.
On the other end, the Wildcats invited Florida to drive the lane, knowing Noel was there to alter or swat shots. But Florida was smart, moved the ball around rather than see shots rejected and ended up winning the battle of the points in the paint by 10.
One reason was that Casey Prather gave the Gators an inside presence. He finished with 12 points, three rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Florida ended up with nine blocks in the game. The Gators came into the game tied for 11th in the SEC in league games, a mere 48 blocks behind the Wildcats.
But on a night when the game would be decided inside, Florida muscled up.
“They don't put any bad players on the court,” Calipari said, “and every one of them is aggressive and tough.”
That includes Prather, who has been walking on eggshells since returning from a high ankle sprain. Florida needed him to step up Tuesday night and he did. At one point late in the first half, Donovan sent four guards and Prather on the court defensively.
The result? A Kentucky turnover in the halfcourt.
Florida won with only six made 3s because it was older and stronger.
“We played soft, scared,” said Kentucky's Julius Mays. “Guys played uptight.”
The Wildcats were intimidated by the crowd and the biceps and the energy. And nobody played with more energy than Young. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and more than once had the crowd going by waving his arms in an upward motion. Most importantly, he was a dominant force defensively.
“When Patric was a freshman, he was an aloof defensive player,” Donovan said. “He's better at anticipating what is going to happen.”
Tuesday night was a big night for Florida. The Gators won 20 games for the 15th straight time under Donovan. They separated themselves a bit in the league standings. They beat Kentucky for only the third time in 12 games and broke a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
But more than anything, they showed how good they can be.
“My basketball team is OK,” Calipari said. “This basketball team is really good.”
You don't need Twitter to know it.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.