Young stays disciplined against Wildcats

It only took 1:38 off the clock for the worst-case scenario to take place. Florida center Patric Young picked up an early foul, and a frontcourt without much depth was tested right away. When Young has picked up a quick foul in recent games, Florida coach Billy Donovan has shown a quick hook. On Tuesday, he was patient. That patience was rewarded with one of the best games of Young's career.

Tuesday night was the biggest test of the season for Patric Young. Going up against Nerlens Noel, who was projected as the top pick in this summer's NBA Draft, would show where Young was at on both ends of the floor.

After picking up that quick first foul, Young could have become frustrated and picked up a second one soon after. He had plenty of opportunities. The Wildcats pounded the ball inside, forcing Erik Murphy and Casey Prather to pick up two fouls in the first half.

But Young was patient. He didn't chase shots away from him, but he still managed to block three shots in the first half. He played 10 minutes without picking up his second foul.

During the last two seasons, Young might not have been able to do that. His head coach insisted that he has come a long way.

"It was him doing a really good job of being disciplined, staying down and holding his ground," Billy Donovan said. "He gave us a very good game with his effort. When he gives incredible effort and plays with a great motor, he's capable of getting double-doubles every night."

Young had to stay off social media over the past two days to keep himself from getting too emotionally charged up. He had messages on Twitter and Facebook from rabid Florida fans saying that he would be able to take Noel. Young didn't want to hear it. He wanted to stay in his calm zone that would help him focus on Tuesday, not the external conversations.

So when he picked up that first foul, the rest wasn't that much of a challenge. He had to remain disciplined and balanced, but he was preparing that way mentally for the game all week.

"Being smart about how I play on defense," Young said about the key to his discipline. "I'm not going to say I'm the best defender, but I do a pretty good job of being aware and controlling myself to be in good position. I knew I had to be more disciplined. I had to step up and play really smart."

Young stayed under control but still was physical enough with Kentucky big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Noel to keep them from doing what they wanted in the paint. He took charges and he still blocked shots, doing it best while simply holding his hands straight up in the air and holding his ground to avoid a foul.

Before Noel's knee injury, Young was having the best night of the two centers. In his biggest challenge of the season, the Florida junior stepped up and met it.

"We couldn't get near the basket on Young," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "He just physically took away the rim."

On the offensive end, Young was just as effective. He ended the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season, while shooting 5-for-7 from the field. He was active on the offensive glass, multiple times just punching the ball out to half court where a Florida guard would grab it when Young wasn't able to get two hands on the ball.

His post moves were good, especially against a shot blocking threat like Noel. Young wanted to go into the game like he was facing any other center. Noel's presence couldn't change the way Young wanted to play the game.

"I had to come in and play my game," Young said. "If he blocks my shot, he blocks my shot. If he has a better game, then he has a better game. I'm going to be the best Patric Young I can be out here."

And he was.

He was more than Florida could've expected him to be in this type of game — no post depth, an early foul and being outnumbered by the Wildcats in the frontcourt. But Young thrived through it for one of the best games of his career. It bled into his teammates and raised the energy level of the Gators.

"He was running up and down the floor, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots," Prather said. "We tried to match his intensity."

Late in the game, the Florida defense was setting up while Young jogged down the court soaking in the moment, raising his two chiseled arms, trying to get the crowd excited. In his first win over Kentucky since his first when he was a freshman backup, Young was able to enjoy it.

A few plays later, he limped down the court from what looked like an injury. But it wasn't.

"I started cramping up. Going too hard out there," Young said with his patented ear-to-ear grin.

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