UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Notebook: Wilbekin, Young finish strong for Gators
Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 8:35 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Banged up seniors Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young didn’t start in Florida’s 84-82 overtime win against Arkansas.
But both finished strong for the Gators. Young wound up with 10 points and seven rebounds with 21 minutes off the bench, while Wilbekin scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and overtime.
Wilbekin, who sprained his ankle late in Wednesday night’s South Carolina game, said he felt no ill effects in playing 35 minutes on Saturday.
“I think (I was) 100 percent, maybe 90 percent, 85,” Wilbekin said. “It wasn’t really hurting that bad. It was just range of motion. It was good. It was all right.”
Wilbekin wanted to practice Friday, but was held out by trainers for precautionary reasons. But Donovan said he had a feeling Wilbekin would respond to the challenge of playing at less than full strength.
“Scottie is a highly competitive guy,” Donovan said.
Young, meanwhile, is dealing with knee tendinitis, an issue he’ll face the rest of the season. The 6-foot-9 center said he understood Donovan’s decision to bring him off the bench because he missed practices prior to the Arkansas game. Young also didn’t start earlier in the season against Fresno State because he missed practices leading up to the game with knee issues.
“I’m a team player and I’m going to fit in wherever I can,” Young said. “Whatever situation, if it’s a starter or coming off the bench, I’m a pretty humble guy. If coach wants me to come off the bench, I can do that. If I can provide energy and we keep winning — we’re going to attack it head on and take care of it and eliminate it or mainly, just manage it.”
Young fouled out with 3:46 in overtime, just the second time he’s fouled out this season. Young previously fouled out Dec. 17 against Memphis.
“Patric in the second half, although he was playing with foul trouble, he really gave us some great energy chasing the ball off the backboard,” Donovan said.
With Young and Wilbekin coming off the bench and Casey Prather out with a knee injury, Florida’s makeshift starting lineup included freshman McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill at point guard, DeVon Walker at forward and Dorian Finney-Smith at center.
Hill, making his fifth start of the season, had six points and five rebounds, but also had five of UF’s 17 turnovers. Facing Arkansas’ press in overtime, Hill dribbled the ball off his foot. Walker finished with two points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two turnovers. Finney-Smith had a career-high 22 points.
“I thought the guys that practiced played well,” Donovan said.
Florida showed progress at the free-throw line against Arkansas. The Gators made 11 of their first 12 attempts and finished 25 of 34 (73.5 percent) from the stripe, above their season average of 66.1 percent.
Wilbekin made 6 of 8 free-throw attempts in overtime to help close out the game.
“I’ve been getting them up,” Wilbekin said. “I wasn’t shooting them that good early in the season, so I’ve been just working on it and it’s paying off.”
Prather on mend
Prather made the trip with the Gators with a knee bruise, but did not play against Arkansas. The 6-foot-6 senior forward remains questionable for Florida’s next game Tuesday at home against Georgia.
“He wanted to play so bad,” Finney-Smith said. “Hopefully, he can get healthy.”
One for Pelphrey
Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey handled the advance scouting for the Gators, and for good reason. Pelphrey was head coach at Arkansas from 2007-11 and recruited some of the current players on Arkansas’ roster.
Florida improved to 3-1 against Arkansas with Pelphrey on the bench.
“We were playing for him,” Young said. “We knew it was a difficult situation when he was let go here. And we all have a great heart and great love for Coach Pelphrey.”
Pelphrey is in the final year of a three-year, $1.8 million buyout with Arkansas. Under terms of the buyout, Arkansas is paying him $420,000, with Florida picking up the remaining $180,000 as Pelphrey’s salary as assistant coach.
Florida improved to 16-15 in overtime games under Donovan. The Gators also improved to 60-79 in games decided by five points or less under Donovan. … Florida freshman forward Chris Walker did not make the trip and still has not been cleared by the NCAA to play in games. Walker has sat out six games since joining the Gators at practice on Dec. 16.