Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Patric Young keys Gators NCAA hopes

AUSTIN, Texas — Patric Young sat among several of his Florida teammates Saturday afternoon to talk about tonight's NCAA Tournament third-round game against No. 11 seed Minnesota, but it was clear he wasn't in the mood for conversation.

He appeared a little on edge. Which is exactly where the Gators want him.

The game and the right to advance to the Sweet 16 most likely will be won in the trenches — and both Florida and Minnesota are well aware of that. What Florida needs badly is the aggressive, hustling Young who helped secure a win in Friday night's second-round game against Northwestern State.

"We need him playing with a motor …" Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "When he does what he did (Friday), not so much the scoring, but the chasing of the balls and rebounding and the defense and being in the lane and clogging it up, it makes us a better team. And we need that from him as long as we continue to play, because when he doesn't do that, we're not the same team."

The Golden Gophers led the Big Ten this season in rebounding margin (plus-8.2) and boast the league's top rebounder in senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who averages 8.8 rebounds and 9.9 points.

"We've got to make sure we do a good job rebounding," Gators junior forward Will Yeguete said. "I think we did a good job in the second half (Friday) and we just got to keep it up, box them out and make sure we take care of the ball."

Which may be easier said than done. The Gators had nine consecutive games before the SEC tournament quarterfinal in which they gave up double-digit offensive rebounds, seven in which they were outrebounded.

The Gophers hope to put pressure on the frontcourt but are keenly aware Florida's style of play may alter that plan.

"(They are like) Wisconsin and Michigan State because they take you out of what you want to do, and they turn you over, they press," Mbwakwe said. "They switch defenses a lot. Patric Young, he claws up the front court a lot, and they have a lot of good frontcourt players."

While the Gators are battling inside, they'll also have to contain the guard duo of Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins. Andre had 28 points and nine rebounds in Friday night's win over UCLA, Austin added 16 points and the Golden Gophers scored 34 in the paint.

"He's a great scorer and he can score in a multitude of ways," UF guard Scottie Wilbekin said of Andre Hollins. "So I've really got to just be ready and I've got to count on my guys to help me if I get beat. Just be ready to contain him and don't let him get any easy shots, always have a hand in his face."

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said his concern is his team's inconsistency and how well it will be able defend Florida's offense.

"We have been a good rebounding team, but sometimes we don't rebound," Smith said. "That's something we do well probably because we don't shoot the ball well, we have to go get the second shot — there's a lot more second shots for us. We gave up quite a few second shots, which is a concern against Florida. They're very athletic, quick to the ball, so we have got to work extremely hard to box them out."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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