Game on the free-throw line
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 10:55 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Florida junior center Patric Young had heard every suggestion about how to fix his flawed free-throw shooting.
But Young stuck to the advice of both his dad and Florida coach Billy Donovan, who brought up the power of positive thinking.
“Your brain can't tell the difference between don't miss and miss,” Young said. “So if you tell yourself don't — I have so many different things going through my head, don't miss, don't airball, don't shoot it too hard. My brain is telling me to do those things and it was a big reason why I was struggling.”
Young responded with a 5-for-6 night from the free-throw line during UF's 78-64 win over Minnesota on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, the Gators shot 72.2 percent from the stripe (22-36), their highest percentage since shooting 80 percent at Kentucky on March 9.
For Young, it was a positive step. The bruising 6-foot-9, 247-pounder is still just shooting 50.4 percent (68-135) for the season.
“I felt pretty good because I know a lot of people have been trying to tell me how to fix my shot,” Young said. “My shot is fine. It's just, the ball isn't going in. It's just a matter of my confidence, going up there. It felt pretty good knocking down some pretty clutch free throws.”
Free-throw shooting has been a season-long struggle for the Gators. But Florida, shooting just 68.1 percent from the line for the season, delivered some down the stretch against Minnesota
“Before every free throw we came together,” Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said. “It was just, like, we need two.”
The Gators got some contributions from some unlikely sources, including forward Will Yeguete, who went 5 of 9 from the line. Though just 55 percent for the night, Yeguete came up with a pair of clutch free throws after getting fouled on a defensive rebound off a missed free throw from Minnesota center Trevor Mbakwe. The back-to-back free throws with 6:45 remaining put Florida ahead 62-52, giving the Gators a four-point swing in momentum.
“I was trying to keep my same routine, not trying to think about what was the score or how much time was left on the clock,” Yeguete said.
Florida went to the line a season-high 36 times in a tightly called game that ended with both teams whistled for 43 fouls. The clutch free-throw shooting will be important going forward. Florida next plays Florida Gulf Coast in its Sweet 16 matchup at cavernous Cowboys Stadium.
It will be Florida's first game in a domed stadium this season, which could impact perimeter shooting. As a result, the Gators may need to pound the ball inside and get to the free-throw line if outside shots aren't falling early.
Young said he is ready for the challenge of sinking more free throws in another pressure spot.
“It's going to be a process that I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my career,” Young said. “It's a process of continually getting better in every aspect of the game. No one has ever been 100 percent on free throws so you have to keep working on it.”
Not Tired of Texas
Florida players say they aren't tired of Texas, considering staying in the state means the Gators remain alive the NCAA Tournament.
Florida made the three-and-a-half hour bus trip from Austin to Arlington on Monday afternoon and will work out at an undisclosed location in the Dallas-Fort Worth area until Friday night's game against Florida Gulf Coast University.
“I'm really looking forward to seeing Dallas Stadium, whatever it's called,” Young said Sunday night. “Really looking forward to being there, just embracing this whole process and just being with my teammates.”