Florida is a different beast with this Young
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:52 a.m.
The energy was there, the passion was obvious and the enthusiasm contagious. Florida had the good Patric Young on Saturday night, and the result was a big win for a team that had a big Saturday.
Coupled with LSU's unreal triple-overtime win over Alabama, the Gators recreated the distance between themselves and the rest of the league when they handled Arkansas 71-54.
And Young was a big reason why.
On Tuesday at Missouri, he took only three shots. On Saturday at home, he scored 14 points and had seven rebounds. That's the Patric Young Florida needs, whether we're talking about the last two weeks of the SEC season or the SEC Tournament or March Madness.
“It's a total choice by him,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “It's a mentality. It's a commitment. It's every single day working like that.”
This was more than a stat line. Young ran the court like it mattered. He posted up like it meant something. He chased rebounds like he really, really cared.
It's a stretch to say that Florida can only be as good as Patric Young is and it's probably not fair. But Florida is a whole lot better when he's playing like he did against the Razorbacks.
“I came out a lot more focused,” Young said.
This was not an atypical game for Young, but Donovan would like the junior center to be that guy on a consistent basis. We've seen him go invisible at times and certainly some of the blame lies with the guards not getting him the ball.
But he has to want it.
“It was great,” said senior Erik Murphy. “When we get the ball in the paint, our team is much more effective.”
It's not just the scoring. Young had two assists but several more kickouts that eventually resulted in open shots for teammates. If this were hockey, he'd have had a lot more assists.
“I'm not a black hole when the ball comes to me,” Young said.
Instead, he is an adept passer, but for the ball to be kicked out he has to first get it. And so much of that is positioning and being physical with a big guy hanging all over you.
Against Arkansas, Young and Casey Prather combined to draw four fouls from Marshawn Powell, limiting him to 20 minutes of playing time. With Powell sitting for half of the game, it made things easier for Young.
“When he's involved,” Donovan said, “it really helps us. But there are times when you watch him on film when he has no presence.”
This is not meant to put the burden of a season on one guy. To the contrary, the biggest reason Florida is sitting where it is right now is because the Gators are so balanced. But when the balance shifts to the point where the team gets 3-happy, Florida is not the team that national basketball experts keep falling in love with.
On Saturday night, this team responded to a rare occurrence at home — it was a game at halftime. Florida's smallest halftime lead in the O'Dome had been 12 points against Wisconsin, but the Gators led by only four at the half.
It made you wonder if this Arkansas team might be to this team what South Carolina was to the 2006 national champs, an unexplainable thorn in the side.
But the Gators started strong in the second half. Up by 10, Young drove to the basket and hit a little jumper while Powell was picking up his fourth foul. Minutes later, he dunked home a rebound.
Soon, it was out of hand like all of Florida's home games have been. And the Gators are now 22-4 despite having a healthy complement of players for all of three games this year.
There's no telling what will happen down the stretch now that they are down to six guys who have played significant minutes this season after the concussion suffered by Michael Frazier II.
It's not that they have to have 14 points every night from Young.
But they need the energy he showed Saturday night.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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