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January 25, 2014

'Desperate' Gators live up to defensive identity



Patric Young has been around college basketball long enough to know when he loses a fight. The last three times he has faced Tennessee, the Volunteers have walked away deserving of a title belt.

A reputation was established. Cuonzo Martin's teams were tougher than the Gators. More physically dominating in the frontcourt. Better equipped for the kind of basketball games that test manhood in its most literal sense.

"I can't lie. They did. They punched us, and we didn't respond to it well these last three years," Young said. "But today, we were so ready for whatever they had to throw at us. We actually threw a better first punch than they could. They couldn't take it."

The mentality was planted Thursday night following a ho-hum 68-62 defeat of Alabama. For the second game in a row - both victories - Billy Donovan did not feel his team matched the level of play he expects of it. He told the Gators they were winning battles but losing the war. Donovan urged his players to get "desperate."

"It's a gift to be desperate," Donovan said. "It's a gift."

Florida, ranked No. 6 in college basketball, has jumped to a 6-0 start in Southeastern Conference play but it hadn't sustained the kind of drive and intensity Donovan constantly searches for until Saturday's 67-41 win against Tennessee.

Seldom have the Gators looked as purposeful from tip-off to final buzzer as they did against the Volunteers.

The focus was on taking away the frontcourt players that define Tennessee's heavyweight presence. Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes were often met with double teams from Young and Will Yeguete whenever they tried to establish offensive plays inside. Stokes managed to fight through it more often than not en route to a 16-point, 10-rebound night. Maymon didn't fare as well, but simply trying to beat Florida's frontcourt took the energy out of both.

"They got worn down," Donovan said. "They got tired, and rightfully so."

Said Stokes: "They trapped us, and they basically said, 'We will not let you score inside.' They forced us to hit shots."

And hit shots Tennessee did not.

Players not named Stokes combined to shoot 19.1 percent from the field. The Gators challenged the Volunteers inconsistent backcourt to shoot from beyond the arc, and Tennessee responded by going 1 for 19 from 3-point range.

Maybe most astonishing was the day had by Jordan McRae, the guard who entered Saturday No. 2 in scoring in the SEC. With a four-inch size advantage, McRae wore Scottie Wilbekin like an itchy winter coat he outgrew in grade school. Wilbekin agitated him for the 30 minutes he played. The result: McRae's worst shooting day of the season; 1 of 15 for five points.

"Most of the shots we made him take were really difficult," Donovan said. "He didn't really have many good looks. Most of his shots were challenged."

"We didn't have any lapses today and that was the difference," Wilbekin said. "We sustained good defense throughout the game."

At 17-2, maybe you could say Florida finally got desperate.

"(Donovan) pushed us to take every possession defensively as a championship possession," Young said. "We were so locked in doing that today. Loose balls, all that stuff."


Official Basketball Box Score
Tennessee vs Florida
1/25/14 4 p.m. at Stephen C. O'Connell Center


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VISITORS: Tennessee 12-7, 3-3 SEC
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
05 Stokes, Jarnell..... f  6-9    0-0    4-8    6  4 10   4  16  2  4  0  1  30
34 Maymon, Jeronne..... f  4-8    0-0    0-0    4  3  7   2   8  0  2  0  0  29
01 Richardson, Josh.... g  0-7    0-4    0-0    2  1  3   3   0  0  1  0  0  23
02 Barton, Antonio..... g  1-7    0-3    0-0    1  1  2   3   2  0  1  0  0  24
52 McRae, Jordan....... g  1-15   1-6    2-2    1  6  7   2   5  1  1  0  0  30
04 Moore, Armani.......    1-1    0-0    4-4    0  1  1   1   6  1  0  0  0  18
10 Ndiaye, Rawane......    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   0   0  0  1  0  0   6
15 Thompson, Darius....    1-3    0-2    0-0    0  3  3   0   2  1  0  1  0  17
23 Reese, Derek........    0-3    0-2    0-0    0  1  1   0   0  0  1  0  0   7
24 Lopez, Brandon......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   5
31 Chievous, Quinton...    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   2   0  1  0  0  0   5
32 Edwards, D'Montre...    1-3    0-2    0-0    0  2  2   2   2  0  1  0  0   6
   TEAM................                         1  1  2             1
   Totals..............   15-56   1-19  10-14  16 24 40  19  41  6 13  1  1 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  7-26 26.9%   2nd Half:  8-30 26.7%   Game: 26.8%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  1-8  12.5%   2nd Half:  0-11  0.0%   Game:  5.3%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  4-7  57.1%   2nd Half:  6-7  85.7%   Game: 71.4%    1


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOME TEAM: Florida 17-2, 6-0 SEC
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
15 Yeguete, Will....... f  2-7    0-1    0-0    0  4  4   3   4  1  0  0  1  23
24 Prather, Casey...... f  5-7    0-0    2-3    0  3  3   4  12  0  1  0  0  22
04 Young, Patric....... c  5-7    0-0    0-1    2  3  5   3  10  0  1  0  1  22
05 Wilbekin, Scottie... g  4-8    1-2    4-5    0  3  3   1  13  1  2  0  0  32
20 Frazier, Michael.... g  5-8    3-6    4-4    0  4  4   2  17  2  0  0  0  32
00 Hill, Kasey.........    1-6    0-1    0-0    0  3  3   1   2  3  0  0  1  26
10 Finney-Smith, Dorian    4-9    1-4    0-0    3  5  8   3   9  1  2  0  1  25
11 Edwards, Lexx.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   1
25 Walker, DeVon.......    0-1    0-1    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  1  0  13
30 Kurtz, Jacob........    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
42 Donovan, Billy......    0-1    0-1    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
   TEAM................                         1  3  4
   Totals..............   26-54   5-16  10-13   7 28 35  17  67  8  6  1  4 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 11-25 44.0%   2nd Half: 15-29 51.7%   Game: 48.1%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  2-8  25.0%   2nd Half:  3-8  37.5%   Game: 31.3%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  2-2  100 %   2nd Half:  8-11 72.7%   Game: 76.9%    0


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Officials: Ted Valentine, Anthony Jordan, Jamie Luckie
Technical fouls: Tennessee-None. Florida-None.
Attendance: 12475
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Tennessee.....................   19   22  -   41
Florida.......................   26   41  -   67

Points in the paint-UT 26,UF 38. Points off turnovers-UT 4,UF 10.
2nd chance points-UT 11,UF 9. Fast break points-UT 4,UF 6.
Bench points-UT 10,UF 11. Score tied-3 times. Lead changed-7 times.
Last FG-UT 2nd-00:39, UF 2nd-02:40.
Largest lead-UT by 2 1st-19:22, UF by 32 2nd-02:40.


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