Rosario boosts Gators with shooting
Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 12:11 a.m.
AUSTIN, Texas — The two sides of Mike Rosario have both made an appearance in this NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for the Florida Gators, the good Mike Rosario showed up Sunday night.
Not that there's really a bad one. There's just this version of the Florida senior guard who does silly and irresponsible things on the basketball court.
That is why he was benched Friday night.
“I didn't sit Mike Rosario,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “He sat himself.”
It has been a constant battle for Donovan to bring out the best in Rosario, the transfer from Rutgers. He benched him for a one-handed pass earlier in the season, benched him in a dogfight at home against Vanderbilt.
There's no better discipline than the folding chairs in the sideline and Rosario has found that out. And it seems to bring out the good Mike Rosario.
On Sunday, Florida needed some big shots and he provided them. Rosario scored 25 points and made 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range in Florida's 78-64 win over Minnesota.
“We knew he was a talented shooter,” said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. “They did a fantastic job of finding him. Six-of-nine, if you're shooting by yourself that's pretty good.”
On the morning of Northwestern State game, Rosario was challenged by Donovan for what probably felt like the 113th time to the Florida coach. The message was simple — we're in the NCAA Tournament and you're a senior.
“And that's the focus he comes with?” Donovan said.
But two days later it was a different story. Rosario came to Florida to have the chance to make big shots. When he was considering UF, that's what Donovan used as a tool to land the 6-foot-3 guard. Big shots happen all the time at Florida. Wouldn't you like to take some of them?
“I was beating myself up for my performance in the first game,” Rosario said. “I wasn't the full Mike Rosario in the first game. I felt like I let my teammates down.”
And that, to Rosario, is a mortal sin. He's one of the most popular players on the team, great in the locker room and on long trips like this one. Donovan talked Sunday night about the genuine affection Rosario has for his fellow Gators.
But the dark side creeps into his game every once in awhile. Asked if there are two sides to Rosario that seem to always be battling, Donovan said, “There definitely are.”
But he also talked about how much he loves coaching Rosario because the guard allows himself to be coached. He accepts his discipline and tries to get better from it.
And he was at his best against Minnesota.
The biggest of the big shots came after the Golden Gophers had cut the lead to seven. The Gators had seen this movie before, the one where everything looks easy and when it becomes hard they start to melt until there's a puddle of goo left on the floor at the end of the game.
First, it was Scottie Wilbekin with a ginormous 3. Then Rosario followed with another. And from that point on it was about free throws and killing clock.
“It was real deflating,” said Minnesota's Andre Hollins, who was putting on a show himself before he got into foul trouble. “It freezes that momentum. And it was my fault because I helped off a guy who had already made four threes.”
After Rosario sat for most of the second half Friday, Minnesota couldn't have been expecting him to be the story of the Round of 32 game.
“The first game, I wasn't on edge,” Rosario said.
And that's the thing with this team. In those epic fail meltdowns this season, I wondered if that was the one thing this team lacked — an edge. This is certainly a skilled basketball team with excellent basketball smarts. They are a bunch of great guys, too.
But every really good team needs an edge. They need guys who will take tough shots and — more importantly — make them when the pressure is on. They need guys who don't just want to win, they demand it.
Maybe Rosario is that edge.
He was Sunday.
Contact Pat Dooley, sports columnist at The Gainesville Sun and Gainesville Magazine, at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.