Florida 82, Marquette 49: When Patric Young comes alive, the Gators are monstrous

Al Messerschmidt

Patric Young's dominance off the bench against Marquette raises the question: Has he awakened?

Patric Young has had statistically superior games to the one he played against Marquette in Florida's 82-49 win on Thursday night: 12 points and five boards in 19 minutes against South Carolina as a freshman, 14 and 12 against Ohio State and Jared Sullinger, 25 and 10 against Arizona, 21 and nine against Kentucky (and against Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, NBA players both). But this performance was the best of Young's career at Florida, I think, because it showed just how dominant the Gators can be when Young makes his presence felt and doesn't wait for his teammates to get him involved.

One of the criticisms, explicit and implicit, about Young, is that his athleticism and skill far, far outstrip his production because his hustle is lacking; another is that he needs to be fed the ball early to remain engaged in the game. Billy Donovan chose to bring Young off the bench against Marquette, probably to prove the point that Florida can get along just fine without their big man in the starting lineup.

All Young did was show why he can be the best player on any floor in college basketball on any given night.

The numbers aren't nuts, just 10 points and 10 rebounds with three assists, three blocks, and two steals. But Young's numbers do not tell the whole story: Davante Gardner, Marquette's dump truck of a center, was the second-best offensive rebounder in the country, and one of its better post players, entering this game; he took four shots and managed six points, and had one defensive rebound. That's a testament to unusually active and persistent defense from Young, who erased Gardner as a threat for much of the night.

And there aren't box score numbers for Young leaping to his full extension to save one ball on a possession with the Gators up big in the second half, or for Young tipping the ball to a teammate on a rebound attempt between two players. The number of times Young sprinted downcourt to establish post position or deny it is not listed next to free throws — which Young made four of five of, by the way.

And none of that considers that Young did all of this damage in 22 minutes, or with an Erik Murphy injury leaving him as Florida's only true big underneath, or that Florida won by 33. I have never seen Patric Young play as well as he did tonight, and yet this feels, to me, more like an awakening than a flash, more like what we've all been waiting more than two years for than something we'll look back on and shake our heads at five years from now.

Pat's beyond smart enough to read things like this and understand that his fantastic night was predicated on hard work, hustle, and desire; Donovan's certainly more than wise enough to use this game to drive that point home. Let's hope it sticks, and that this was merely the birth of Patric Young 2.0, Florida's monster, because the Gators are scarier than they have been since the Oh-Fours last lifted crystal with that Pat.

Consider this: Florida's leading scorer on this night was Michael Frazier II, who bombed five threes en route to 17 points in his own 22-minute stint. Frazier's probably not going to start this year, because Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin are all ahead of him in Donovan's rotation — and that's true even if those three combine for just six makes on 23 shots and 21 points again.

Will Yeguete is Florida's least dangerous rotation player, offensively, and he had 11 points on six shots on Thursday, and has made 16 of 25 shots this season; his seven rebounds are an afterthought because he's always getting seven rebounds, it seems. Casey Prather had 11 points and three boards in 16 minutes, making all four of his shots and sinking a three.

Murphy had a decent night (10 points on seven shots) before heading to the locker room after a blow to the side. Boynton, Rosario, and Wilbekin only barely remained in the vicinity of decent. It didn't matter.

Florida roared out to a double-digit lead near the end of the first half, and didn't leave a whiff of a doubt about the outcome of the game, and recorded its sixth win by double digits and fifth of 15+ points in the young 2012-13 season as a result. All it took was a fully operational Patric Young to key that.

I thought last season's Gators had the best afterburner potential since the Oh-Fours, with Bradley Beal's celestial talents always available for dominance in the little things. But Beal suffered from the same lack of aggression that Young does, only realizing he was and needed to be the alpha dog late in the season, and still shying away from that role in that crucial second half against Louisville.

If tonight was an indication that Young has learned from that mistake and was not just pissed about getting benched — and, well, we can't know whether it was one or the other just yet — this year's Florida team has a legitimate national title shot.

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