Notebook: Rosario accepts benching
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 12:35 a.m.
AUSTIN, Texas — Florida senior guard Mike Rosario understood why he was benched in another big moment.
Who: No. 3 seed Florida vs. No. 11 seed Minnesota
What: NCAA Tournament, Round of 32
When: Sunday, 6:10 p.m.
A missed assignment on a box-out for a rebound early in the second half against Northwestern State on Friday resulted in Rosario sitting for 13 straight minutes.
“I had to pay the price, and to pay that price that means somebody else has to come in and do the job,” Rosario said.
Rosario will get another chance for redemption tonight when third-seeded Florida faces 11th-seeded Minnesota.
The 6-foot-3 senior forward has been pulled by Florida coach Billy Donovan before, but on the outside, has never taken it personally. In an earlier game March 2 against Alabama, Rosario sat the final 13 minutes after a few careless passes. On the bench, Rosario was seen cheering on his teammates.
Likewise, Rosario said he was happy to see his team build a lead against Northwestern State while he was on the pine.
“It was great, to see the way we really started to step up,” Rosario said.
Donovan said Rosario isn't in the doghouse. The coach said he made the move because he was concerned with Florida letting another second-half lead slip away after blowing a 12-point halftime lead against Ole Miss in the SEC tournament final. The Demons' putback cut Florida's lead to 40-34 early in the second half.
“That's over and done with,” Donovan said. “For whatever reason, he was not as in tune, or in line mentally as we needed him to be.”
Donovan said he kept Rosario on the bench because the Gators tightened up defensively and started to build their lead. In the 13 minutes Rosario sat, Florida went on a 26-8 run to break open the game.
“I wasn't mad at him to the point I was going to bench him the whole game,” Donovan said. “But the game was going well when he was on the bench, so that probably contributed to part of it.”
Rosario, who has been playing through a dislocated finger the past few weeks, also picked up two fouls in the first half and was unable to get in the flow of the game. In 15 minutes against Northwestern State, Rosario finished with six points, two rebounds and an assist. He finished 2 of 6 from the floor and 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
“(The foul trouble) was upsetting, too, because I felt like I could have helped my team in a couple of areas that my team needed me to help them,” Rosario said. “But I tried to stay on task … other guys came in and stepped up.”
Mbakwe's Florida roots
Minnesota senior center Trevor Mbakwe is a St. Paul, Minn., native. But the wide-shouldered 6-foot-8, 245-pound Mbakwe has some familiarity with the Sunshine State.
Mbakwe spent the 2008-09 season at Miami Dade College after transferring from Marquette.
“It's a big state,” Mbakwe said. “They produce a lot of athletes, football- and basketball-wise. Even with Florida Gulf Coast (beating Georgetown), it shows how good throughout the whole state, how good basketball is. That's a big state basketball-wise, and my short time at Miami, I was able to see the caliber of players there.”
Mbakwe said he was recruited by Donovan out of high school and approached by Miami coach Frank Haith to transfer to the Hurricanes following his one season at MDC. But instead, Mbakwe went home to Minnesota, where he's developed into one of the best rebounders in college basketball. Mbakwe leads the Big Ten in rebounding this season at 8.8 per game.
Florida assistant coach Matt McCall recalled watching Mbakwe play at MDC when he was an assistant at nearby Florida Atlantic.
“He's one of those guys that has a tremendous motor and doesn't stop playing,” McCall said. “Loves to play. Plays with great energy, plays with great passion. People don't realize, he's probably about only 6-foot-7 but he plays 7-(foot)-2.”
Miami's practice was interrupted for 20 to 30 minutes by a fire alarm Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center, which resulted in practices of all teams being pushed back. Miami coach Jim Larranaga, whose team faces Illinois on Sunday night following the Florida-Minnesota game, said waiting outside the arena provided some bonding time for his team.
“They kept everything in stride and just had a good time outside, just hanging out with each other and talking and getting ready,” Larranaga said. “Kind of following the ticker to see who was playing and who was playing well and who was winning.”
More bats at practice
Florida dealt with more bats flying from the rafters of the Erwin Center during Saturday's practice. But players said they kept focused.
“It didn't really bother me at all or bother coach (Donovan) at all,” Florida junior center Patric Young said. “He was like, what did he say? ‘If you get bit, I'll pay for your medical bills.' ”
Added Florida junior forward Casey Prather: “It was funny watching our guys' reaction to it. There was like, two of them at one point.”