UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Notebook: Gators' bench back to full strength
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 11:38 p.m.
With freshman point guard Kasey Hill back from a groin injury, Florida's bench was at full strength for its matchup with LSU.
And UF's bench played a big factor in its 79-61 win over the Tigers on Saturday. Led by sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith's team-high 16 points, UF's bench players outscored LSU's bench 28-2.
But Finney-Smith wasn't the only bench player to make an impact Saturday for the Gators. Sophomore guard DeVon Walker had six points and a steal, Hill finished with four points and five assists and freshman forward Chris Walker had two points, six rebounds and a blocked shot in a season-high 14 minutes.
“We were able to get really good minutes from our bench all the way around,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We were able to get everyone involved and the minutes were pretty balanced.”
Donovan subbed all four of his bench players en masse — Hill, Chris Walker, DeVon Walker and Finney-Smith — to rest his starters at the 13-minute mark in the first half.
“Coach told us (LSU) hadn't made a sub yet, he wanted us to go up and down,” Finney-Smith said. “(LSU center) Johnny O'Bryant didn't come out the whole first half. So Coach D told me and Chris, we gotta run the floor and we came out with a lot of energy.”
Donovan said he felt the LSU matchup was good for Chris Walker, a freshman McDonald's All-American who has tried to carve out a consistent role off the bench. Walker's first-half basket in transition was just his second since Feb. 8 against Alabama.
“That was a good game for him where he was able to inject some of his athleticism, rebounding, those things,” Donovan.
1989 team honored
Florida honored its 1989 men's basketball team at halftime of the UF-LSU game. The 1989 team was the first in school history to win an SEC regular-season title.
Among former players who attended the ceremony were team captain Clifford Lett, forward Livingston Chatman and Ken and Linda Schintzius, the parents of late former UF center Dwayne Schintzius.
Florida won the SEC crown with a 21-13 overall record and 13-5 record in league play. Asked what made the 1989 team special, Lett said: “The camaraderie with the guys. We had a different atmosphere my first three years than my senior year. My senior year we all cared about each other, wanted each other to succeed, didn't care who got the publicity. We just played as a team.”
Incoming 2014 Gator preferred walk-on Zach Hodskins (Milton, Ga.) attended the LSU game. Hodskins, born without his left hand and forearm, emerged as an inspirational national story when he was offered a walk-on spot to UF last summer. He went in the locker room to celebrate with UF players following the LSU win. … There were 13 NBA scouts in attendance for the UF-LSU game including former Miami Heat point guard and current Heat scout Tim Hardaway. … The announced attendance was 12,589, UF's 13th sellout of the season.