Rosario Brings Energy

Mike Rosario hasn't shown his full ability on the court this season. Ankle and back injuries have kept Rosario off the floor, but even when he is healthy, his lack of defensive effort has forced Florida head coach Billy Donovan to use Rosario sparingly. The redshirt junior showed some of his potential in the first half of Tuesday's win over Georgia.

He's now trying to bottle that and become a spark plug off the Florida bench.

Rosario used the game against Georgia to bounce back. It all happened fast, too.

With the Gators leading 11-9 in the first half, Rosario took over. While driving to the basket, Rosario hit a floater and was fouled, also making the free throw after a short timeout. He came back less than a minute later by hitting a mid-range jump shot and went coast-to-cast after getting a rebound to lay the ball in the basket, giving the Gators an 18-9 lead.

After the 7-0 run that Rosario went on by himself, the game wasn't close again.

"It felt great to go out there and be able to compete again," Mike Rosario said. "Now that I'm healthy, I've got a lot to bring to the table for the team. The opportunity was there tonight. I just went out there and concentrated on the things I needed to do to help the team."

The potential has always been there. Rosario is one of two players in Rutgers history to break the 1,000-point plateau in his first two seasons before he transferred to Florida. While he sat out last season because of the NCAA's transfer rule, there were reports out of Florida practices that he was the best scorer there.

Rosario poured in 19 points in the season opener against Jackson State. Since then, it has been downhill. The former McDonald's All-American is coming off the bench for the Gators and spent the early part of the season trying to adjust to his role. When the injury bug got the best of him, Rosario's production decreased.

"Mike always has been a proven scorer, so what he did is not uncharacteristic of his ability," Donovan said. "Getting those points in the first half helped the team. (He) had a really, really great two days (of practice) going into this game. It showed up a little bit in the first half."

Rosario played just 16 minutes on Tuesday, but his role will continue to expand if he can stay healthy. He will continue to give starters Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Brad Beal a rest when necessary, but when Rosario is feeling it from the floor and breaks out offensively, he can provide one of the deadliest shooters in the conference.

"Mike is terrific, and we need Mike as much as possible," Beal said. "Whenever he's healthy, he's a big factor on our team. When he's able to come in and get that and-one or something, he's a big motivator."

His ability to motivate comes from his emotion on the court. Rosario doesn't hold much back. Whether it's the flying chest bumps with teammates after his and-one opportunity in the first half or his urging for the crowd to get louder after Patric Young blocked a shot into the crowd in the second half, Rosario can fuel the team.

After Donovan was upset with their energy level in recent games, a boost in that department isn't a bad thing.

The Florida head coach just wants Rosario to be smart. Less than two minutes after his personal 7-0 run, Rosario air balled an open three from a few feet behind the three-point line. He also took a runner on a fast break that didn't fall. Neither were good shots, but Donovan understands that he has to take the good with the bad from Rosario.

"I try to give him some freedom there," Donovan said. "The one I got annoyed with was the air ball in the first half. He's beautiful and said it was open. I said, 'if you were that open, then you're a really bad shooter. At least tell me the ball slipped out of your hands or something.' That one I didn't like."

BEAL IS BACK: Brad Beal's slump was well documented. In the four games before Tuesday's game, the freshman was 2-for-16 from behind the three-point line and averaging just 8.8 points per game. That changed against Georgia.

Beal went 4-for-6 from behind the three-point line, while he and Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 17 points each. He also got back to action on the glass, recording ten rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

"One of the things he has struggled with is a comfort level of what's open and what's available," Donovan said. "I really felt like the last few days in practice, he was starting to figure things out offensively in terms of when he should be looking to shoot and pass. It has bogged him down a little bit because he's so unselfish.

"He had a much better feel and flow today offensively than he has in the last few games."

Beal also felt things starting to change in the two days of practice before the Georgia game. He started to have a better grasp of the offense, and when he settled in, he was thinking less about his shot. The less he thought about how bad his shot was struggling, the easier it was for the shot to go in.

"Coach Donovan helped me realize that I need to relax," Beal said. "He told me to relax because it's going to come. Kenny (Boynton) told me that he went through the same thing, so I should just relax and keep having fun."

The freshman took his first shot of the game 4:02 into it. The shot was a three-pointer where Beal confidently rose and launched the ball. It didn't even draw rim, falling gracefully through the net to get his confidence going.

"It does because you gain a level of confidence," Beal said. "When you have confidence, your teammates have confidence in you. You know you can shoot the ball consistently."

LARSON SEES INCREASED TIME: Cody Larson struggled through the Christmas break with strep throat, causing the redshirt freshman to lose weight and stamina. After working his way back, Larson is back to full health.

He has seen most of his time on the floor this season in blowouts and when Patric Young gets in foul trouble. On Tuesday, Larson got the call to enter the game just 3:08 after it started. Young hadn't committed a foul to get pulled, but Donovan wanted to see what Larson could do.

His increased effort and improvement in recent practices earned the early call.

"I've been really happy with Cody," Donovan said. "He has really worked hard and his attitude has been great. He has done a really nice job and come every day with a great attitude to work and get better. He is getting better. I feel more and more comfortable with him.

"He has had about a week to ten days of good practices. I felt like he really deserved and earned an opportunity play quite a few minutes."


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