Will Yeguete back to active self in dominant Gators victory

Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete (15) shoots a layup against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two minutes into the game and you could tell Will Yeguete looked like, well, Will Yeguete.

You know, the guy described this way in the game notes: Prototypical hustle player with a knack for grabbing rebounds and loose balls.

In Florida’s 72-50 victory over Georgia on Tuesday night, Yeguete snagged the Gators’ first rebound of the game, and then committed UF’s first turnover.

Yeguete wasn’t perfect, but he was active.

And then Yeguete scored Florida’s first basket on a nice move in the paint, showing the type of explosiveness that has been hiding at times during his senior season.

"That’s Yeguete’s best move in a month," Gators radio analyst Mark Wise bellowed over the airwaves.

Yeguete didn’t stop there.

He finished with a season-high 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and had one steal in 25 minutes. Florida coach Billy Donovan could have done without Yeguete’s four turnovers, but as the Gators move deeper into the SEC schedule, Donovan will take more performances like Tuesday’s from Florida’s Mr. Hustle.

Donovan saw a tired Yeguete in Saturday’s win at Arkansas, not the usual energizer Florida fans have come accustomed to seeing the past four years.

"I thought he looked really exhausted," Donovan said. "He didn’t have any bounce, any legs. We gave him Sunday [off] and I’d say [Monday] probably gave him half the reps [at practice]. I think that probably helped him physically some trying to get rejuvenated."

Yeguete has been the consummate team player during his UF career but entered his final season coming off a summer that included a second surgery on his right knee. Yeguete missed some key games late last season after surgery but was able to return in time to help Florida advance to the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season.

Donovan said the Gators’ schedule of late had made it difficult to give Yeguete a day off from practice and the wear and tear was starting to show.

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Apparently, a day off was what the doctor ordered to help Yeguete play perhaps his most complete game of the season.

"It’s been a long season," Yeguete said. "You kind of need those games to build confidence. It’s definitely good for my confidence right now. I’m just glad that I was able to help out in the game in the first half and get ourselves going."

Yeguete made 5 of 6 shots in the first half as the Gators raced to a 36-16 halftime lead. He also did the kind of dirty work the Gators rely on, adding length to their formidable press and scrapping for any loose ball within reach.

"I’m proud of him. He played good," teammate Dorian Finney-Smith said. "He just does all the little things. People don’t notice what Will does. He’s a great defender. He’s always talking. He’s a great leader. He will tell you what you need to hear. I love him for that."

It only counted for two points — tying the game after Georgia’s Brandon Morris put the Bulldogs ahead to start the game — but Yeguete’s early basket wasn’t an accident.

He came into the game feeling fresh and with a more aggressive mindset.

"Coach D told us to be aggressive, go right at them," Yeguete said. "I feel like in a one-on-one situation I can make a move if I have enough space — just go and do it. As long as you make a really strong move, he’s happy with that. I made a strong move. I was feeling good … and it went in."

Yeguete’s only points in the second half came on a pair of free throws that gave the Gators a 40-18 lead with 17:44 left in the game.

His teammates took care of the rest. But before they put the Bulldogs away, they were glad to see the Yeguete they know best with some hop back in his step.

"He was taking good shots, playing great defense, not doing anything he can’t do, taking care of the ball, just effecting the game and running the floor," senior center Patric Young said. "Playing his style of play. He was really focused and locked in on that."