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December 22, 2011All the No. 11 Gators (10-2) heard about coming into Thursday night's game against Florida State was how good the Seminoles were on defense. By the end of the night Florida successfully changed the topic of conversation with an 82-64 win over FSU (8-4).
"We came in with the mindset that we're the best defensive team out here," Florida center Patric Young said. "We don't get that much credit for our defense because our offense has been so great this year. We wanted to show them from the get-go that they're not going to get anything easy."
Young certainly took the message to heart with the defensive play of the night for Florida. FSU forward Bernard James was likely mulling over whether he would go for the dunk or layup on what looked like a guaranteed two points, but Young saw an opportunity to rob him. The right-handed Gator center used his left hand to stop James' shot and swiped the ball out of his hand in one smooth motion. Young completed the ESPN-ready highlight by racing down the floor for a dunk off of Brad Beal's missed three-pointer.
Young's electric energy and jaw-dropping play brought the O'Connell Center crowd to its highest decibel level of the night. After the game, Young knew it was too special to be played down.
"I can't wait to see that one on (ESPN SportsCenter's) Top 10 tonight," Young said.
Young will get the most time in the game's highlights, but he was edged by Beal for the title of the top scorer. Some might say Beal played more assertive, but his coach opted to give more credit to the freshman guard's teammates.
"(Beal) got some more shots up tonight," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought our guys found him. He had a couple good drives to the basket. He had some good looks from the three-point line. He's just the type of kid that never wants to come across as being selfish."
When all five starters score in double figures it's difficult to imagine any player feeling selfish. After the game, the humble Beal was not talking about being the leading scorer.
"Our defense is what really won the game for us tonight," Beal said.
The Gators needed their defense.
Florida opened the game a miserable 0-for-7 from the free-throw line in the first half. An opponent's trouble at the foul line will often play into the strategy of a defense-oriented team like the Seminoles, but they had issues of their own. UF forced 10 turnovers in the first half and was able to negate its free-throw problems.
The first half was largely a game of runs, with Florida closing strong to go up 32-24 at the break.
The Gators extended their lead to 10 open the second half, but found themselves at their most vulnerable when FSU went on an 8-0 run and cut the lead to 38-36.
The 15-2 response run from Florida proved to be the games turning point. It included Young's block and dunk sequence as well as a back-to-back dunk and three-pointer from Beal.
The Seminoles did their best to come back from trailing 53-38, but the Gators kept the pace and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the night.
Florida will be off for the Christmas holiday before traveling to face Rutgers on Dec. 29th. Donovan said that injured guard Mike Rosario, a Rutgers transfer, is highly doubtful for the game against his former team.