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November 15, 2011

Five on the Spot



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Normally, it is five members of the football team that Inside the Gators puts on the spot if Florida is to win the game. With the basketball team facing their biggest challenge of the season, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the basketball team. If UF is to pull off the upset of No. 3 ranked Ohio State this evening, these five Gator players will be on the spot to perform.

* Patric Young - Not only does Young have the toughest job from a defensive perspective - handling last season's Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger (17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds) in the post - he is also being counted on to grab as many boards as possible both Tuesday night and all season long.

Young is in an unenviable situation this year. He is the only player on the team with the size and talent to match-up against a top opponent down low but is also trying to work on fouling less and playing within himself.

Sullinger shredded Florida a year ago to the tune of 26 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) and 10 rebounds. He was all over the place on the offensive glass and provided Ohio State with the opportunities it needed to jump ahead of UF for good in the second half.

The Gators have much less depth in the post this year and are counting on Young for major minutes on Tuesday. If he gets into foul trouble early, Sullinger could have a field day.

The two are both in their second year and know each other quite well from the AAU circuit. Though Young said he does not want Tuesday's game to be about him, his head-to-head play against Sullinger in the paint will be the battle to watch all night long.

* Erving Walker - There were a number of reasons the Gators faltered against the Buckeyes a year ago, but one of the main ones was the seven turnovers Walker gave up during the game.

Head coach Billy Donovan has tasked Walker with being a game manager this year - running the offense, making the right passes, not forcing shots and being intelligent with his decision making.

Walker did exactly that against Jackson State, scoring just 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting with four assists, four boards and no turnovers. He was also involved by making introductory passes in a number of big scoring plays and ensuring the team was spaced correctly on the court.

It will be interesting to see if Walker reverts to his shoot-first mentality against a big-time opponent or is able to continue and abide by Donovan's mandate that he be more of a facilitator than a playmaker.

* Kenny Boynton - It is a given that Brad Beal and Mike Rosario are going to score their points, and the duo is hoping to prove that they can do so consistently. Boynton, on the other hand, has been as streaky as streaky can be in his career.

From a shooting perspective, he has been impressive through the exhibition game and season opener. He had great looks against Jackson State and responded by going 7-for-13 (4-of-7 from downtown) for 19 points.

However, just like Walker, it is Boynton's ability to be consistent against a top-tier opponent early in the season that remains to be seen this year. He will have that opportunity Tuesday and, with a good performance, could set himself on a course to put his inconsistencies behind him.

Twelve months ago, Boynton was the best player on the court when Florida took on Ohio State, going 8/14 (5/8 from three) for a team-high 21 points. A similar performance this year would go a long way to a potential Gators victory on the road.

* Will Yeguete - Young will undoubtedly try his best to stay out of foul trouble and clean up everything around the basket, but he is going to need some help. Junior forward Erik Murphy will be there in the starting lineup, though how much he will be able to help at the rim on a consistent basis remains to be seen.

That is where Yeguete comes in.

A firecracker off the bench, he could be the dynamic spark that Florida needs to keep the pressure on Ohio State either when a player is benched for fouls or simply taking a break.

Yeguete did not play against OSU last year but averaged 2.6 rebounds in just 7.1 minutes per game in 2010-11. He had seven boards in just 15 minutes of action against Jackson State last week.

* Erik Murphy - If there is one player who had the most room to improve after the season opener, it is Murphy.

Not only did he score just six points on 2-of-9 shooting, Murphy only grabbed four boards and let numerous others slip through his fingers due to traffic in the lane.

Even Donovan put Murphy on the spot when he spoke to the media on Monday. "We just need Erik to continue to defend, rebound and be a threat offensively, to make good decisions," he said.

Young will need all the help he can get down low on Tuesday, and Murphy will be the primary player on the court able to help him when the starting five is out there.

Although Beal is a freshman, Murphy has the most to prove out of any Gators starter. He now has the opportunity he has been waiting for and can capitalize on it in a big way against the Buckeyes.


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