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March 21, 2014

Gator Gameday: Florida vs. Pittsburgh

GAME DAY LINKS: Notebook: Defensive-minded teams to battle | UF-PITT Game Day Thread

No. 1 Florida vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh
Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 12:15 p.m. EST
TV: CBS / RADIO: Gator IMG Sports Radio Network, Sirius 85/XM 190
Pittsburgh Panthers (26-9)
Streak: Won 1
Last Game: Defeated No. 8 Colorado 77-48
G James Robinson (finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to nation's best point guard) S0. 6-3 200
G Cameron Wright (scored in double figures 20 times this season) Jr. 6-4 205
F Lamar Patterson (team leader in points -- 17.4 PPF -- and assists -- 4.3 APG) Sr. 6-5 225
F Michael Young (averages fewest minutes -- 21.7 -- of Pitt's starting five) Fr. 6-8 245
C Talib Zanna (averaging 15.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG in his last five games) Sr. 6-9 230

Nebraska CornhuskersFlorida Gators (33-2)
Streak: Won 27
Last Game: Defeated No. 16 Albany 67-55
G Scottie Wilbekin (10 assists, three turnovers in last two games) Sr. 6-2 176
G Michael Frazier II (Thursday was ninth time he has made one or fewer 3s this season) So. 6-4 199
F Casey Prather (three games in a row scoring in double figures) Sr. 6-6 212
F Will Yeguete (grabbed the first rebound of Thursday's game but it was his last) Sr. 6-8 230
C Patric Young (recorded first double-double of the season against Albany) Sr. 6-9 240

Affect James Robinson

Robinson is one of the best point guard in the country for a reason and it isn't his scoring ability (7.8 PPG). When he's on, he makes everyone around him better and enables the opposing point guard to do the same. It's why he had eight assists against Colorado while the Buffaloes -- yes, the entire team -- had five. There are two players who will be most important to Florida's success Saturday, and Scottie Wilbekin is certainly one of them. Pittsburgh's chances will begin with how well Robinson is able to run the offense.
Win the inside battles

The other Florida player most critical to success in this game? Patric Young. Today, he will essentially go up against his clone, albeit his clone who has put up better numbers than him, especially as of late. Talib Zanna is an elite is a physical, blue-collar center who can make the big plays but lays his groundwork while making the "other" plays. He set the tone Thursday as an interior defender who forced Colorado's offense to run off ugly mid-range jumpers and various low-percentage shots.
Get Michael Frazier II's confidence back

Frazier looked defeated and talked with an edge after making just one of four 3-point attempts in Thursday's game against Albany. Referring to Frazier as "Jesus Shuttlesworth," the Great Danes aimed to take Frazier out of the game and were successful in doing so. Coming out of a game like that seems like a perfect time for the Gators to work inside-out, forcing the issue inside at Zanna while trying to use that penetration to kick out some open 3-point attempts. This means more passing than the Gators attempted Thursday. It's all about creating Frazier's opportunities and putting the perimeter game in his hands.

Billy Donovan on attacking the Panthers:

"We're getting nine players in the game. We're able to deal and manage with some foul difficulties, and then a lot of times teams are playing with a shorter shot clock. By the time they get it across and regroup. I think Pittsburgh, they do a terrific job attacking the press. They're going to try to attack the score. They're very good at that. So our rotations and what we do in our press will be important because they really do a terrific job in the middle of the floor passing and making decisions and attacking the basket."
Young on going up against Zanna:

"I just know tomorrow because we're both very similar players, it's going to be a battle. We're going to go out there and just try and wear their frontcourt out because they have a lot of depth, a lot of good talented guys, especially him. I saw that he had a 19 and 21 game against Carolina or 21, 19, so I know it's going to be a battle up front. I'm just excited for the opportunity to go against someone like that."

Florida 64-56: In so many ways, Pittsburgh looks like "Florida Light" on paper. A familiar type of defense-first player at center, one of the nation's premier point guards, etc. The difference is how deep Florida's top-level talent goes. The Gators have Kasey Hill coming off the bench playing the best basketball of his freshman season and two frontcourt players off the bench who can both eat up necessary fouls and produce. In other words, the Panthers are a heck of squad but the Gators should be one of the nation's best when they even graze their potential. Saturday might be the most brutal and physically taxing 40 minutes of the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend. Florida's ability to outlast opponents will thrive off that.

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