Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Sports

Scottie Wilbekin keys Florida's defense

GAINESVILLE — As his teammates began to notice the improved level of play in Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin's defense last season, they took the liberty of borrowing the nickname of another stellar defensive player.

"We called him the 'Honey Badger' last year," senior forward Erik Murphy said. "Obviously he's probably our best on-ball guy. The guy's relentless."

That relentless style (with a nickname borrowed from former LSU football standout Tyrann Mathieu) is evident even more this season and is a direct reflection of the way the Gators play, particularly of late. UF has held three opponents this season to 40 points or fewer, 11 under 50 and 15 under 60. The Gators rank second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average 50.4 points per game.

Wilbekin is helping lead the way with no qualms.

"Just growing up playing for my dad (Svend Wilbekin at the Rock School in Gainesville), we always did defensive drills," the junior said. "I was always a defensive-minded player. I guess it was just ingrained in me from a young age. And when I came in (as a 17-year-old freshman), I saw that's where I would be needed most and I could get my playing time."

Three years into his tenure, he is the starting point guard and has held his own while taking on some of the league's best guards. In Florida's win over Texas A&M, he was critical in limiting Elston Turner to four points and 1 of 10 shooting; in his previous game, against Kentucky, Turner had scored 40. Against No. 17 Missouri, Wilbekin held star guard Phil Pressey to two points and 1 of 7 shooting from the field. Pressey also was forced into 10 turnovers.

"I want to shut everybody down that I'm playing," Wilbekin said.

No. 4 Florida needs that mentality again tonight against No. 16 Mississippi in a sold-out game at the O'Connell Center between the SEC's top teams. The game features one of the league's newest players, junior guard Marshall Henderson, who leads the SEC in scoring (19.3 points per game) and ranks third in the nation averaging 3.8 3-pointers per game.

Wilbekin has provided the Gators not only with a serious stopper, he has given them stability at point guard, something they lacked during his three-game suspension to begin the season.

"He's been doing a great job facilitating the offense, not taking bad shots," junior center Patric Young said. "He's been starting to become a double-double machine with points and assists. It's just been really good seeing someone like him finally getting recognized for how good he is."

He has also improved on offense, averaging 9.1 points. He had his first career double double against Missouri.

"I think he's been playing the same way, but he's shut down bigger guys this year," senior guard Kenny Boynton said. "I think last year he had the same defensive mind-set, but I think his offensive game has evolved this year."

The matchup between Wilbekin and Henderson has been highly anticipated, but Wilbekin downplayed it this week, saying his role doesn't change regardless of the opponent. That's a sign of maturity coach Billy Donovan approves of.

"I think he's gotten better," Donovan said. "Scottie's done a really, really good job of finding people when they're open. He's made really good decisions, and I think he's made it even easier for other people around him. And then on the other side, we've also got some really, really good defensive performances out of him against some really talented, good players inside this league."

Comments
Q&A: Ex-Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on Brooks, Winston, Ring of Honor

Q&A: Ex-Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on Brooks, Winston, Ring of Honor

Former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn will be reunited with Derrick Brooks — his teammate both at Florida State and with the Bucs — when they work together Sunday as "Legends" captains for the NFC squad in Sunday's Pro Bowl in Orlando."Wh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

TAMPA – Unless you are a Chowd who drives the cah wicked fah and pahks in the yahd, you probably aren't all that jacked up about the Patriots returning to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Anybody but Bill Belichick...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

CHICAGO — The Lightning got more bad news Monday with wing Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks with a lower-body injury. It’s a big blow to a struggling Tampa Bay team, which is now without its top defense­man (Victor Hedman) and now arguably its best defensi...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Bucks fire Kidd in midst of slump

MILWAUKEE — The Bucks fired coach Jason Kidd on Monday amid a midseason slide that has left the playoff hopeful in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. It was a surprising end to Kidd’s three-plus season tenure in Milwaukee, when the Bucks made th...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Mrazek strong in goal again as Red Wings blank Devils

NEWARK, N.J. — Petr Mrazek had 37 saves in posting his second straight shutout and third of the season as the Red Wings beat the slumping Devils 3-0 on Monday night. Tyler Bertuzzi, David Booth and Dylan Larkin scored for the Red Wings, who snapped a...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballArkansas at Georgia6:30 p.m.SECProvidence at Villanova6:30 p.m.FS1Kansas at Oklahoma7 p.m.ESPNWisconsin at Iowa7 p.m.ESPN2Oklahoma State at Texas Tech7 p.m.ESPNewsVanderbilt at Tennessee7 p.m.ESPNUDavidson at Dayton7 p.m.CBSSNW...
Updated: 9 hours ago

MELBOURNE, Australia — Back-to-back shockers resulted in a most unexpected Australian Open men’s quarterfinal. Six-time champion Novak Djokovic and fifth-ranked Dominic Thiem lost within a few hours Monday, leaving Hyeon Chung and Tennys Sandgren pla...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Blackhawks

Matt Peca and Michael Bournival likely won’t be the last callups by the Lightning the next month or so. There are plenty of other deserving candidates at AHL Syracuse, with Adam Erne likely getting a shot had he not been injured. With Ondrej Palat ou...
Updated: 9 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 22

Monday’s scoreboardBoys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Clearwater 0Boca Ciega 3, Indian Rocks Christian 1Girls soccerClass 4A, District 10: Countryside 7, Clearwater 0; Dixie Hollins 2, East Lake 0Class 3A, District 10: Osceola 14, Gibbs 0...
Updated: 10 hours ago