Perception of Florida changing in tournament

Ask any non-Florida fan about the Gators' reputation the last few years, and it probably went something like this — gunners who rely too much on their backcourt. And if those shots aren't falling, look out.

But if this weekend's NCAA Tournament contests in Austin said anything, it's that this year's Florida team is different. This year, the Gators are a team as capable at pounding away on weaker teams as they are bombing away from deep. That's a description that guard Kenny Boynton didn't shy away from after Florida's 78-64 victory over Minnesota Sunday night.

"I would say we look for our big men more than in previous years because offensively, they're producing," Boynton said. "Murphy's shooting about 50 percent from three. Pat's finishing hook plays down there. I think offensively, they've gotten better in the offseason.

"We know that we can win with those guys going inside," Boynton said. "We're definitely looking for those guys more."

That doesn't mean the Gators are interior-reliant — on Sunday, Florida won in large part because Mike Rosario poured in 25 points while shooting 6-of-9 from three-point range. But it does mean that teams can't beat the Gators by simply hovering around the arc and putting hands up.

In fact, Patric Young said there were multiple instances — including one that led to a Rosario three-pointer — where the Gators dumped the ball inside, only to go inside-out and generate an open look from the outside.

"We've been pretty balanced all year," Young said. "The last game, against Northwestern State, we scored a lot more points inside the paint than we did in this game. The ball went inside, then it went out, we went inside-out. I didn't get as many shots up, but I wasn't worried about that. I was able to find my guys that are open."

Against Northwestern State, Young and Erik Murphy combined for 34 as the Gators scored a whopping 44 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Demons by 17. That helped to make up for a night when Florida made just 7-of-21 shots from three-point range.

And that meant that a guy like Rosario, despite his proficiency shooting the ball, was able to find open looks a couple of nights later.

"I wasn't really looking to score," Rosario said. "I just felt that I was put in the right situation at the right time and I told myself I'm not going to hesitate.

"I just felt that coming into that first game, I wasn't doing my job," Rosario said. "Everybody has a job on the team to do, and that's something that Coach teaches us every day in practice and every game. If you have every guy on the same page, doing their job, that's how you have great teams."

Every man, a single job. According to energy man Will Yeguete, that job can change depending on the night or the matchups.

"Coach D wants us to be able to move the ball and on a given night, anybody can go off, pretty much," Yeguete said. "Last game Patric had a really good game. This game, it was Mike. Everybody kind of contributed."

"Obviously we have four players in double figures, close to five, and we get production from everybody," added Scottie Wilbekin.

Yeguete said head coach Billy Donovan asked the team to average 20 assists per game.

What happens after that is that everybody gets a chance to score," Yeguete said.

Sunday, that scorer was Rosario. Friday, Young paced the team in points. Who will it be next week? That's a mystery, and that's what makes Florida tougher in the NCAA Tournament than it has been in years past, Young said.

"Anybody can score," Young said. "Being able to play both ways, this year being more unselfish as a team is going to help us … these next few games."


Fightin Gators Top Stories