Wednesday Recap: Florida Holds Off Arizona in OT

December 8th, 2011

Much has been discussed about Florida's deep backcourt, a group that can score in a variety of ways but has some issues with decision-making when it comes to shots. But if anything was learend about what the Gators will need to do in order to achieve their goals it's that those talented guard better be sure to keep the big fella inside happy. Patric Young scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he was essentially the one player Arizona could not match up with in Florida's 78-72 overtime win.

Young made 12 of 15 shots (all two-pointers) from the field while the other Gators combined to make just nine of twenty-seven, and given their affection for the jump shot that split isn't a huge surprise. Arizona was able to limit Florida's guards for much of the night, with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combining to shoot just 5-for-27 from the field. The Wildcats were without the services of point guard Josiah Turner, who missed practice on Tuesday and therefore was suspended. 

Sean Miller played all five of his starters at least 32 minutes with senior guard Kyle Fogg playing all 40 minutes, and forward Jesse Perry led the way with 23 points. Arizona clearly won't be looking for any kind of moral victory, but some felt that without Turner the Wildcats were walking into a buzz saw. That clearly wasn't the case, and the hope now is that watching his teammates perform admirably without him will serve as the wake-up call Turner needs.

But back to Florida, who in Young has one of the tougher matchups in the SEC from a physical standpoint. Only twice this season has the sophomore taking ten or more shots, with the first occurrence coming in the Gators' second game of the season. That cannot happen consistently if Florida is to be an SEC title and Final Four contender. The tools in the backcourt can match those of any team in America, but sometimes overuse of the weapons can do more harm than good. Neglecting to get Young consistent touches would be a good example of that.  

Other Notable Happenings 

1. Festus Ezeli returns in Vanderbilt's win at Davidson with noticeable impact.
Some have said in the weeks prior to Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli's return that the big man would be a clear difference-maker for the Commodores as quality big men aren't exactly a dime a dozen at the college level. Others have taken the more cautious approach, stating that Ezeli's return won't solve the team's problems in regards to perimeter defense and their play in tight games down the stretch. But there's no debating the fact that Ezeli is a factor, and his 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks were evidence of that in their 87-83 win at Davidson.

The senior has some work to do in shaking off the rust acquired thanks to a knee injury, and Wednesday's game also displayed how much work Kevin Stallings' team has to do in order to contend in the SEC. Vandy led by as many as 18 points in the second half, and Davidson forwards Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks combined to score 42 points and grab 16 rebounds. Jeffery Taylor led Vandy with 22 points, but if not for Davidson's 5-for-22 shooting from deep the Commodores could have been headed back to Nashville with a loss. So while the return of Ezeli is definitely a positive, don't expect Vanderbilt to think that suddenly things are OK. 

2. Illinois holds off St. Bonaventure, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Bruce Weber's Fighting Illini are an improved basketball team to this point in the season despite the loss of Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, and sophomore center Meyers Leonard has been one of the Big Ten's most improved players. But there's still some distance to travel for both the Illini and Leonard, and that was apparent in their 48-43 win over St. Bonaventure. Brandon Paul led the way with 17 points and D.J. Richardson added 11, but Leonard took just three shots and scored nine points.

Leonard went up against St. Bonaventure senior Andrew Nicholson, one of the most polished interior players in the country. While Nicholson made just seven of eighteen shots, where he is from a development standpoint is where Illinois likely wants Leonard to be by the time he leaves Champaign. And therein lies the benefit of challenging non-conference games, as it's better to expose the flaws that need to be rectified early as opposed to having league opponents figure them out. 

3. Iona comes back from 13 points down to win at Denver in overtime. 
One of the big questions ahead of Iona's trip to Denver was how they would handle the altitude and it's possible effects on their desire to run. But by the end of their 80-78 win over the Pioneers it was Tim Cluess' team that looked the fresher thanks to their depth. Randy Dezouvre's jumper with less than two seconds in overtime proved to be the difference as Iona came back from a 13-point second half deficit to hand Denver their first home loss of the season. Momo Jones (21 points), who ran the show at Arizona, looked comfortable in his role which has been more off the ball due to the presence of point guard Scott Machado.

Machado turned the ball over seven times but ran the show well down the stretch and in the extra session, scoring 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Iona also grabbed 41% of their misses on the night, outscoring Denver 15-9 on second-chance points. Brett Olson (20 points) and Chris Udofia (18 points) led the way for the Pioneers, who looked every bit the likely Sun Belt contender for much of the night. But Iona refused to be put away, and their determination was rewared with a win.  

Quick Hitters

1. Utah may not win a game against a Division I opponent this season. Far-fetched? Possibly, but the Utes made unfortunate history in their 81-50 loss to Cal-State Fullerton. The Titans handed Utah their worst loss in the history of the Huntsman Center, which opened in 1969. On a more positive note, congratulations to Fullerton head coach Bob Burton on tying a school record with his 139th win at the school.

2. While there's been unfortunate freshman turmoil in the Pac-12 for some teams, Tad Boyle's got himself a good one in Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie scored 15 points in Colorado's 71-64 win over Fresno State and is averaging 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. And Andre Roberson is turning heads as well for CU as he posted his third double-double in the last four games (21 points, 10 rebounds). 

3. There's few lines that concern a coach more than the "I have not connected with this team" line that Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said after the Scarlet Knights' 59-57 loss to Princeton. This is a young group but the hard lessons have come a bit more frequently than expected in New Brunswick.  

4. The first game without Kyle Bullinger was a rough one for Weber State as they fell 94-66 at BYU. Damian Lillard scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but the loss in the frontcourt proved to be too much to overcome against Noah Hartsock (19 points, 12 rebounds) and the rest of the BYU deep front line. 

5. Nevada picked up their second win over a Pac-12 team in less than a week, winning 69-61 at Arizona State. Deonte Burton scored 28 points for the Wolf Pack, who have won six of their last seven on the heels of an 0-2 start. 

Three Notable Performances

1. F Patric Young (Florida)
25 points, ten rebounds and two assists in the Gators' 78-72 overtime win over Arizona.

2. F/C Corey Petros (Oakland)
23 points, 16 rebounds and two assists in the Golden Grizzlies' 84-82 loss to Ohio.

3. G Nick Barbour (High Point)
35 points (7-11 3PT), five points and two assists in the Panthers' 87-83 loss to Wake Forest.