Young provides spark off the bench for Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All Patric Young could do at first was watch as LSU pounced on the first minute of the game like Mike the Tiger might devour a slab of ribs.
A long 3-pointer by Anthony Hickey 13 seconds into the game and a dunk by Storm Warren put LSU up by five 56 seconds after the opening tip. LSU led by six when Young, coming off the bench for the second consecutive game while nursing tendinitis in his right ankle, got the sign to go in from Gators coach Billy Donovan.
Young kept hearing in his head what Donovan told him earlier in the week.
Donovan reiterated the point in his postgame press conference following Florida's 76-64 win Saturday night. The message in a nutshell: "Run, Patric, run."
The result was instant production for the Gators when Young entered the game.
LSU's 10-4 lead quickly turned into a 10-10 tie, thanks to three baskets from Young in a span of 1 minute, 28 seconds.
After watching from the bench for the first 3:27 of the game, Young ripped off his "We Back Pat" T-shirt in honor of Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt and quickly started backing his teammates.
"As soon as I came onto the floor, I just had a mindset of that's exactly what I'm going to do," Young said. "Even if I don't get the ball, it might open somebody else up. Either way, I'm going to run the floor. The ball just came to me and I just made some good solid moves and the ball went in."
Young would score only two more points the rest of the game — a pair of free throws in the second half — but the surge he provided in the first half was all the Gators needed to improve to 10-0 at home this season. The Gators outscored LSU 34-16 the rest of the first half from the time Young entered.
Young's most impressive basket — a one-handed dunk off a missed shot by Will Yeguete in the second half — didn't even count. A foul was called before Young slammed the ball and ignited a loud roar from the packed crowd at the O'Connell Center.
He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and a block in 24 minutes — he also had to match up at times against LSU's 7-footer Justin Hamilton — showing no signs of his recent ankle discomfort as he left the arena with Yeguete.
"I felt pretty winded after I kept running the floor every time," Young said. "Overall, I felt pretty good."
Teammate Mike Rosario, the beneficiary of one of Young's assists, said Young's inside presence changed the flow of the game and opened up more opportunities for the rest of the team. Yeguete started in Young's place Saturday.
"As far as us counting on the things that we need him to do, I though he did a great job of doing those things," Rosario said. "He's still out there rebounding the ball. He still ran the floor and he got post position a lot of times. That helped the guards get to the basket most of the game. I thought he did a great job of doing that.
"He still made a huge impact in the game for us [despite the sore ankle]."
Donovan monitored Young closely this week in practice after he played only 13 minutes between his injury and foul trouble in Florida's win at South Carolina a week ago. Donovan said as recently as Thursday that he wasn't sure how much Young would play against LSU.
However, Donovan made it clear to the 6-foot-9, 247-pound big man that if he did play he wanted to see him go all out. Donovan wanted Young to flash that raw energy that has often been a trademark of Young's best performances in his two seasons at UF.
That was his message to Young and his point to the media following Saturday's win.
"The thing Patric brings to our team, when he plays at an incredible emotional level, it opens up so many different things for our team," Donovan said. "When he is running the floor as hard as he can and he's posting up, he draws so much attention that opens up our perimeter. And when they try to shut down the perimeter, you can throw the ball inside to him.
"We've got to get him playing, even if it's just for three or four minutes, with an incredible amount of energy. When he does that it totally changes the complexion of our team. It's a great skill and talent he has."
LSU can attest to that. It only took him 88 seconds to change the complexion of the game.