The fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center were counting down the points for Patric Young Sunday afternoon. Needing 12 points to become the 50th player in Florida school history to score 1,000 or more points in his career, Young knew he was getting close late in the second half because the fans kept reminding him
“The fans kept reminding me … ‘four more, Pat … two more … one more’ so before last game I didn’t know how close I was and I didn’t care about it until they told me I was this amount of points away so I was more conscious of it,” Young said after scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds to lead the 13th-ranked Gators (10-2) to an easier than expected 76-34 win over Savannah State before an announced crowd of 10,508.
The ease of the game allowed Florida coach Billy Donovan to reward Young with opportunities to reach the milestone late in the second half.
“I think about the eight minute mark I said, ‘Pat I’m going to put you in and run some plays at you,’ and he said, ‘well coach I don’t want to force anything’ … that’s the kind of kid he is,” Donovan said. “So we were going to put him in there to at least try to get that done today and I’m happy it happened.”
Between Young getting to the 1,000-point plateau and a consistent defensive effort for the entire 40 minutes, there wasn’t too much about this game that didn’t reek boring. Savannah State (2-11), which has an RPI in the 330s, was hopelessly mismatched both in terms of talent and experience. The Tigers started three freshmen against a Florida lineup top-heavy with seniors so the game was almost over before it even began.
When Alante Fenner hit a short jump shot from the right corner with 10:21 to go in the first half, the Florida lead was narrowed to 16-7. That was as close as it would get. It was also the last time the Tigers scored until Jyles Smith scored on a layup with 2:09 to go in the half to cut Florida’s lead to 30-9. Savannah State added one more basket with 1:14 to go but it was 34-11 at the half and no one in the building really thought the Gators had played all that well.
The Gators started the second half on a 21-8 run, leaving the crowd to seek its own excitement the rest of the way and that came in the form of the countdown to 1,000 for Young.
Young seemed almost embarrassed by his accomplishment and tried to deflect comments about what he had done. He attributed his success to Donovan and the coaches for continually working to develop him over his four-year career.
“I couldn’t walk and chew gum when I first got here so I can do a few more things now,” Young said. “I just want to thank him (Donovan) for believing in me and helping me to get better.”
Young’s scoring and rebounding averages for his Florida career are fairly modest – 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game although he’s averaged double figures since his sophomore year – but Donovan says you can’t measure the value of his 6-9, 240-pound big man by numbers alone. And, he says that Young could probably score a lot more if he were a bit more about himself.
“Patric is an unselfish a player as I have been around,” Donovan said. “I think for him right now today he probably looks at it as ‘that was nice.’ I think it will be something later on in his life when he looks back on it he’ll realize that if you score 1,000 points it’s always a milestone.”
While Young’s accomplishment caught the attention of the crowd, Florida’s defense caught Donovan’s attention. It was the second consecutive game the Gators have held their opponent below 50 points.
Savannah State shot only 24.5% from the field (12-49) from the game and while the Tigers wanted to shoot more 3-pointers, there were few openings against a Florida defense that smothered outside opportunities. The Tigers only managed eight 3-point attempts (made two).
“Obviously with their size and lack of experience they were probably challenged offensively a little bit,” Donovan said. “I think anytime you hold a team to 34 points it doesn’t happen by not giving a really good effort. I thought our guys gave a really good effort on the defensive end of the floor.”
Framing the defensive effort was Florida’s ability to convert Savannah State’s 20 turnovers into points at the other end of the floor. The Gators outscored the Tigers 32-8 in that category.
On the offensive end, the Gators shot 49% on 24-51 shooting and they were 7-17 (41.2%) from the 3-point line. Four players scored in double figures led by Young’s 15. Michael Frazier added 11 while Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin each scored 10. For Prather it was the 12th consecutive game in which he has scored in double figures.
Florida won’t play again until next Saturday against Richmond, the final non-conference game of the season, but Donovan is already looking forward to the week ahead. With Chris Walker and Alex Murphy cleared to practice, Donovan will be able to put the Gators through the kind of practices that will prepare them for the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule.
“I’m excited about this week coming up because having Chris Walker in practice and having Alex Murphy down here now, it’s the first time we’ve had a legitimate 10 guys, 11 guys who we can practice and bang against each other so I’m excited about that,” Donovan said. “When you’re in those situations you’ve got a chance to grow and get better.”
GAME NOTES: The Gators have won 22 consecutive home games, the second longest home winning streak in team history and one of the top five home streaks in the country … Since Donovan became Florida’s head coach, the Gators are 23-0 all-time against teams from the Mid-East Athletic Conference … Scottie Wilbekin went 3-4 from the 3-point line, the first time this season that he’s knocked down three 3-pointers in a game … DeVon Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith both had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds off the bench … Billy Donovan III played four minutes and scored two points.