Florida coach Billy Donovan has been all over Mike Rosario all season.
After the last two games, Donovan has nothing but good things to say about his fifth-year senior guard.
Rosario scored a season-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists, and No. 8 Florida routed Southeastern Louisiana 82-43 on Wednesday night.
”I’m a fifth-year player. I’m experienced. I’ve been through the Big East and I’ve been through a lot of challenges in my life,” Rosario said. ”I just feel like coach Billy just challenges me every day and I look forward to it because this is my last go-around and I feel like my teammates need me to bring that consistency every day and I’ve been trying to do that.”
Rosario helped the Gators (8-1) bounce back from a loss at No. 4 Arizona four days earlier, winning their only home game over a 40-day span.
Rosario made 8-of-13 shots, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and enjoyed his best game since transferring to Florida from Rutgers after the 2009-10 season. It came on the heels of a 16-point night against the Wildcats.
It’s a big swing for a player Donovan criticized earlier in the season. Donovan called Rosario soft before the season, and then ripped him for turnovers and a lack of defensive effort last month.
Rosario has responded as well as Donovan expected.
”I think he has really conformed, he’s worked and I think it’s shown in his play,” Donovan said. ”He’s much, much more disciplined, much more responsible, much more accountable. I feel like I know what I’m getting from him from day to day. That’s the most difficult thing to deal with as a coach, when you have a talented player and you don’t know who’s showing up and who you’re going to get from day to day.
”He’s kind of put it together, become more responsible, reliable and accountable, and because of it, I think he’s playing well.”
Rosario was no match for the Lions (1-8), who have lost five straight.
He hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the first half, turning an eight-point game into a double-digit lead. He followed with two more baskets, giving him 10 consecutive points. Maybe his most impressive play came in the closing minute of the first half, when he grabbed a rebound and made an athletic move toward the basket.
He could have flirted with a triple-double, but Donovan played reserves for the final five minutes of the lopsided game.
Pat Young and Michael Frazier II were the only other Florida players in double figures. Young had 10 points and five rebounds; Frazier had 12 and six.
Scottie Wilbekin added nine points, six rebounds and four assists for Florida. Casey Prather and Will Yeguete chipped in eight points each.
Rosario, though, drew all the praise. His teammates have noticed a difference in his game.
”He’s definitely being more aggressive with the basketball,” Prather said. ”He’s believing in his ability. It’s great for him and I’m happy for him.”
Leading scorer Kenny Boynton had seven points while struggling for the third consecutive game. He was 1-of-7 shooting, making him 7 of 29 in the last three games. He has hit just 3 of his last 22 shots from behind the arc.
Brandon Fortenberry led Southeastern Louisiana with 15 points.
The Gators shot 57 percent in the first half and led 43-26. Things really got ugly after the break.
”With a team like that, they don’t need much of an open door to break through,” Lions coach Jim Yarbrough said.
The Lions went seven minutes without a point in the second half, falling behind 50-26 before Fortenberry’s driving layup.
About the only thing Southeastern Louisiana did well was handle Florida’s press. The Lions had two turnovers at halftime and 13 for the game. They shot 29 percent for the game and made just 3 of 21 from behind the arc.
The Gators were much more efficient.
They shot 49 percent from the field, including 10 of 32 from downtown. Florida connected on 16-of-18 free throws and dominated the paint, scoring 30 points in the land and outrebounding Southeastern Louisiana 40-30.