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Sunday March 3, 2013 BasketBlog Notebook: Billy D, Mike Ro & Tom Seaver, Prather, etc.

Updated: 9:52am, March 4

UF bench  

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the second half against Alabama, Mike Rosario drove the baseline in front of the Florida bench, hit a wall and turned the ball over.

To the bench he went, his team down eight points, with 11:49 to go.

The Gators scored 19 of the next 21 and blew the game open.

This is not intended as an indictment of Rosario. Coach Billy Donovan pointed out after his team’s 64-52 home win Saturday over the Crimson Tide that the Gators would not be in their current situation -- having clinched no worse than a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship -- were it not for Rosario’s contributions this season.

But there are consequences to not playing “the right way,” and Rosario was the one who paid for them Saturday, taking a seat for Casey Prather, who answered with the finest all-around performance of his career.

“We have to understand the right way to play,” Donovan said.

Tom Seaver Heading into the game, Rosario had been UF’s leading scorer in SEC play (with team-high points in six of the previous seven games) but had a couple tough plays in pivotal momentum moments in the loss at Tennessee Tuesday night.

Then came the pass against the Tide.

Florida led by five when Erik Murphy grabbed a missed Bama shot a minute into the second half. Rosario took the outlet up the right sideline -- again, in front of the UF bench -- and instead of advancing the ball with a clean bounce to Scottie Wilbekin chagring up the floor, Rosario tried to loop a cross-court pass to Kenny Boynton on the opposite baseline.

The ball hit Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs, right in the hands ... in the second row of media seating.

“He thinks he’s Tom Seaver,” Donovan said, invoking a name -- a Hall of Fame baseball player (that's him to the right, youngsters) -- probably unfamiliar to several inside the Florida locker room. “I’m going to bite my tongue on that [one], but then we got the baseline drive. Enough. Out. Sit down.”

But this is where Rosario deserves credit.

From the bench (after going 2-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-5 from the arc and with three turnovers), Rosario was as animated as any of the Gators in cheering on the biggest rally of the season. As far as being a teammate, Rosario played the right way.

The basketball part of it, Donovan and his Gators (23-5, 13-3) will have to sort out as they ready for the home finale when Vanderbilt (13-15, 7-9) comes calling with a chance to clinch the SEC title outright. After that, it’s the regular-season finale at Kentucky and one more chance at signature road win before tournament time.

That leaves four more days to hash out the kinks and kick the rust off forward Will Yeguete and guard Michael Frazier, whose return to the lineup may have provided an emotional lift and some great pre-game anticipation, but brought little -- as Donovan warned -- in terms of productivity.

Yeguete: 0-for-2 from the floor, 1 rebound, one turnover in 11 minutes.

Frazier: 0-for-1 from the floor, 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, one turnover in six minutes (all in the first half).

“We had all these things going into the game; ‘They’re back! They’re back! They’re back!’ Well, they’re not back. It’s going to be a long process,” Donovan said after winning the 14th home in as many tries. “I give our guys credit with the fact they didn’t wilt. They battled, fought and found a way to win the game. That was an encouraging sign, but I was not pleased with the way they played at all."


 Pat thumb's up DID YOU NOTICE?

The Gators had some big effort plays down the stretch, but the one that struck me occurred during UF’s 19-2 run that blew the game open.

At 5:55, Patric Young posted in the paint for a baby hook that gave the Gators a 52-47 lead. At 5:50 -- that would be five seconds later -- Young drew an offensive foul on Randolph Levi 85 feet away under the Alabama basket.

“We were just trying to get that spark,” Young said. “I made the move, finished the play and was jogging back when I saw them get the ball out really quick. All that was in my mind was running back as hard as I could to try and get in position.”

He did.

“That got everyone excited,” Young smiled. “Got me excited.”

That's a perfect example of the kinds of sequence Donovan knows Young is capable of pulling off multiple times during a game when his effort and energy level are at its highest.



The Florida win Saturday coupled with the Kentucky loss at Arkansas gave the Gators a share of the sixth SEC regular season title in school history. That’s 39 behind UK’s 45 titles and pulls the Gators even with Mississippi State for fifth-place on the list of all-time league championships. Which school is second? Answer below in “Free Throws” section.



The kind of gushing heard in the Chicago Bulls locker room over the years had been reserved for Michael Jordan; maybe a few times for Derrick Rose. “That’s legendary stuff,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “Spectacular,” added Coach Tom Thibodeau. “His will from the start to the end was just incredible.” They were speaking, of course, of center Joakim Noah after his 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots fueled a 93-82 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers. The performance marked the first points-rebounds-blocks triple-double for the Bulls since Artis Gilmore did it way back in 1977, and the first 20-20-10 game by any NBA player since Shawn Bradley did it for Dallas in 1998. And the Bulls needed every one of his plays to seal the game. “I wanted to [the triple-double],” Noah said. “But I wanted to win more.” Anyone surprised by that comment?




Oh, and did we mention Casey Prather is playing well? Turns out, the junior backup forward is playing historically well and stunningly efficient when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. After going 3-for-6 from the floor against the Tide, Prather’s shooting percentage actually went down, yet he is on pace to become just the third player in UF history to make at least 65 percent of his shots with a minimum 100 field-goal attempts. Check out where Prather currently sits, for context.

Pct.     Player                       Season        FGM-FGA
.722    Dwayne Davis          1988-89        179-248
.698    Chris Richard            2005-06       197-139
.690    Chris Richard            2006-07         98-142
.655    Casey Prather           2012-13          59-90
.648    David Lee                  2002-03       149-230
.646    Eugene McDowell     1982-83        203-314



Gator jumping

It's either Casey Prather ... or any UF student right about now.



So Tennessee went to Georgia and took a wicked hit to its NCAA hopes by losing to the Bulldogs. Exactly no one should be surprised. The Volunteers probably were still feeling good after themselves after beating the Gators Tuesday night -- and they paid for it. Like Missouri did its first game after beating Florida (the Tigers lost at Kentucky four days later); and like Arkansas did four days after beating Florida (the Razorbacks lost an awful NCAA resume defeat at Vanderbilt). Kind of tells you who teams are getting up for (and letting down afterward) in the SEC these days. ... Lost in the win over the Tide was Boynton scoring 13 points and passing Andrew Moten to move into second place on the UF all-time scoring list with 1,940 points. Moten scored 1,930 from 1984-87. Boynton is not going to catch Ronnie Williams (2,090 from 1981-84), but he has a shot at 60 points and becoming just the second player in school history to hit the 2,000-point milestone. ... Meanwhile, Rosario quietly eclipsed the 1,600-point plateau for his career. Remember, he came here after scoring 1,051 points in two seasons at Rutgers and has padded that with 552 in a Gators uniform the last two years. ... Young’s three blocks against Bama gave him 109 for his career, which tied him for ninth on UF’s all-time list alongside David Lee (2002-05). ... Trivia answer: LSU checks in at second place behind the Kentucky with 10 regular-season championships, with the last coming in 2009.


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