Physical Wisconsin matchup looms for Gators
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Physical Wisconsin matchup looms for Gators

The matchup doesn't look good for Florida on paper. No. 22 Wisconsin has built its reputation on physicality and dominating in the paint. The Gators only have two fully healthy big men on Wednesday, with Erik Murphy dealing with an illness. It's hard to draw up what to expect with a lack of bodies in practice, but No. 10 Florida knows it has to be ready to play physical on Wednesday.

"We felt like Georgetown was physical, but we feel like Wisconsin is going to be much (more) physical," Florida guard Mike Rosario said. "We're preparing for that."

There are six players 6-7 or taller on the Wisconsin roster. There are only three players at 6-7 or above that are on the Florida roster and eligible to play this year. If 6-10 Erik Murphy (illness) plays, all three of Florida's 6-7 or taller players will be in the starting lineup.

"Wisconsin is a big, strong, physical team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes. On the defensive end of the floor, they don't break down. They do a great job of guarding the ball and helping each other."

It's a brand of basketball that keeps the Badgers in every game, but it also helps them play on the road. Since Bo Ryan was hired as head coach before the 2001-02 season, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten with a .508 winning percentage in road games and has the most (62) true road wins.

Even though it's a home game for Florida, the Gators know that Wisconsin poses a big challenge.

"Wisconsin is a really good team," Florida forward Will Yeguete said. "We haven't played a ranked team, so it'll be challenging. They're really good and have good size inside. It'll be a good battle for us."

It's a game that Donovan and Ryan have been trying to put together for years. The schedules didn't match up in previous seasons so it wasn't able to happen. The teams haven't played each other since the host team won each game of a home-and-home series in the 1960.

If Wisconsin plays the type of basketball it wants, Wednesday's game might feel a lot like those with a slow pace and long possessions.

"They execute their offense," Donovan said. "They take their time. They're deliberate. They get the shot they want and aren't afraid to go deep in the clock."

The tough early season schedule isn't just about building a resume for the NCAA Tournament. Donovan has changed his philosophy in recent years and scheduled tougher. It exposes flaws in the team and helps the coaches know what to work on more in practice. There's also the interest of season ticket holders and Florida basketball fans.

"I've tried to be conscientious for our fans to bring in really good, quality opponents into the O'Connell Center," Donovan said. "You find out more about your team. This will give us more of an assessment of where we're at as it relates to getting better and how we need to improve. We're going to find out who we are.

SOLVING THE LINEUP PUZZLE: The simple solution to Scottie Wilbekin's suspension was to slide Kenny Boynton to point guard. It's the other issues the Gators have had that have caused lineup issues.

Casey Prather (concussion) will miss both games this week and could be out another week. It leaves the Gators without a true small forward on the roster.

With the three-guard lineup of Boynton, Mike Rosario and Wilbekin not available, the Gators have gone with Will Yeguete at the small forward position. It was a forced education for Yeguete, who had one day to learn the position before starting in it against Georgetown.

"He had to learn a whole other position," Donovan said. "That's the thing that was hard for me going into the Georgetown game. Will Yeguete, his whole entire career has pretty much been a power forward."

Florida needs Yeguete to play under control. He tried to do too much at times against Alabama State on Sunday, trying to start the fast break or get out on the break himself, and he turned the ball over three times.

"He has to start the break a little bit and get the ball out," Donovan said. "We just mishandled the ball on the break. We've got to do a better job, especially against Wisconsin. They're not going to turn the ball over or make those kinds of mistakes. "

If Erik Murphy (illness) can't on Wednesday, the situation gets even more confusing. Yeguete would slide to his natural position of power forward to go along with Patric Young at center. Boynton and Rosario will start in the backcourt. The fifth spot would either go to Michael Frazier or DeVon Walker.

Whether Murphy plays or not, the problem for the Gators comes down to the lack of a true small forward on the roster.

"That's the puzzle," Donovan said.

GETTING THE BALL TO YOUNG: As Boynton continues to learn the point guard position on the job with Scottie Wilbekin suspended, Donovan is pushing him to keep finding Young in the post.

"In the Georgetown game, we missed him a few times. In the Alabama State game, we did a better job of recognizing him," Donovan said, noting that Boynton played better against Alabama State. "We've got to do a better job of finding him when he's open."

The challenge for Young is to continue fighting to get open. There were times as a starter last season where Young would take plays off. His energy jumpstarts the Florida offense when it's present. When it's not, the Florida offense can sputter.

"One of the things I've been trying to work with Patric on is that there are times where he really runs, ducks in and post up at the front of the rim," Donovan said. "There are other times where we don't get that. He'll duck in periodically and our guys aren't ready for it.

"There's a consistency that's on Pat to duck in like he did against Alabama State, but also on our guards to recognize that."