Thursday, May 24, 2018
Sports

Improved bench play gives Florida Gators a lift in NCAA Tournament

OMAHA, Neb. — Around this time last year, Florida junior guard Mike Rosario was in Gainesville watching his teammates participate in the NCAA Tournament from his on-campus housing apartment.

A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario practiced last season, but could not compete. When he got his first NCAA Tournament opportunity last weekend, Rosario tried to make the most of it. He, sophomore forward Casey Prather, and the rest of the Gator bench provided a surprising, and much-needed, spark in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament, combining for 41 points and 17 rebounds.

"It's a great experience," Rosario said. "I've been waiting to step up like this the whole year for my team. But I feel like right now is a crucial time for me to come off the bench and provide that energy and whatever I can. I thought that me and Casey really made a jump and we've got to keep it going because it keeps a lot of positive energy for all our players, and it gives our coach a lot of trust to make those decisions that we can make the plays that we've been making."

Friday against Virginia, Prather had 14 points and several key blocks and rebounds.

"He gave them a great lift," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "And when you look at someone off the bench, I don't want to say that you weren't counting on that, but that is a pleasant surprise, and he was that for them. He is very athletic. His threat is more slashing from the glass and they played him a little bit as a four, so he's a matchup problem."

On Sunday, with Prather suffering from a 101-degree temperature and flu-like symptoms, Rosario came up big with 12 points. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin also gave the Gators impressive minutes to relieve starting guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, and forward Cody Larson offered solid minutes.

"When we can get points off the bench it's a plus for us," Boynton said. "I'm happy for Casey and the day he had (Friday) was big for us. With Mike, I think Mike can come off the bench every game and score like that. He was a great scorer at Rutgers so it's just a matter of time, him getting comfortable."

The timing of the greater bench production isn't necessarily coincidental. When sophomore forward Will Yeguete was lost for the season late last month with a broken foot, coach Billy Donovan had readjust his starting rotation and also integrate the bench in the new schemes. Donovan isn't ready to declare that this team has it all figured out, but he believes the starters and bench are starting to jell at the right time.

"It's a tribute to those guys that they're that locked in and focused," Donovan said. "I didn't tell Mike, 'Hey, listen, we need your scoring' or tell Casey anything. When you're locked in those things happen for you. I felt like Mike the last couple days, although he didn't play a lot of minutes against Virginia, he had a good day on Saturday getting ready for (Norfolk State). He gave us good contributions. I think in this tournament you have to have different guys step up at different times and different moments."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments
Lightning drops Game 7; Capitals face Knights in Stanley Cup final

Lightning drops Game 7; Capitals face Knights in Stanley Cup final

Fans react while watching outside Amalie Arena the Tampa Bay Lightning Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. The Bolts lost 4-0. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | TimesTampa Bay Lightn...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

TAMPA — After Alex Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, the next highlight was an extended fight between Lightning D Braydon Coburn and Capitals RW Tom Wilson, with a two-minute break for them to spe...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Updated: 4 hours ago