UF frontcourt makes statement this week

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete have heard the talk. No. 13 Florida has four impact guards and a big hole in the middle.

Every week, critics wonder whether the Gators have enough size, enough scoring, enough bodies up front. Those charges grew even louder this week, as UF faced two big, physical teams in a three-day Magnolia State gauntlet.

Florida emerged with two wins, and Murphy said he and his frontcourt mates made a "little bit" of a statement.

"I think we got out-rebounded both games, but we battled," he said. "We are a smaller team, size-wise, but we've just got to keep fighting every game, and I think we'll be all right."

Ole Miss and Mississippi State may play an intimidating style, but at the end of the week, Florida has a measure of pride in its accomplishment.

"They were really tough," Young said. "We've gone against the best rebounding team in the country and another really good rebounding team with three great big men. I think our frontcourt did a really good job showing that we're a pretty good team in the SEC with the frontcourt.

"We have some depth, too. We might have been underestimated a little bit, but we can hang in there with the big guys, too."

Young calls it motivation.

"People say that we're a guard-oriented team," he said. "I think our team is completely balanced. We don't need Kenny (Boynton) and Erv (Walker) to go for 20, 25 a night. We had really balanced scoring today from the bigs and the guards.

"Whatever people say about us, we know what we can do. We just go out there, and whatever you take away, hopefully another guy can key off on that."

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said as much and didn't see a weakness in Florida's front line, though he pointed to the unit's effectiveness in playing off of Florida's perimeter offense.

"Choose your poison against Florida when you try to take that 3 away," Stansbury said of the team that leads the nation in made 3s.

The 6-foot-10 Murphy, who may be overlooked as a big because he is also Florida's leading 3-point shooter, says he doesn't take it personally when he hears doubts about the Gator frontcourt.

"I don't think we have a lack of depth, either," he said defiantly.

The challenge Florida faces in its frontcourt was no more evidenced than in Saturday's matchup between Young and MSU forward Renardo Sidney, who at 6-10 and 270 pounds, is one of the Southeastern Conferences biggest intimidators.

"Sidney makes me feel like I need to gain some weight," said Young, who is 6-9 and 247 pounds. "He's huge. He doesn't really play post defense. He just stands there and, like, bumps you. I wasn't ready for that because normally I can back a guy down at least a little bit, but I couldn't move him at all."

Young had trouble getting around Sidney in the first half -- "Tell me about it," he said -- but finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Murphy was able to score 14 points, mostly on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point distance. But the Gators' biggest statement of the game may have been the way they limited the Bulldogs' frontcourt scoring.

MSU's leading scorer Arnett Moultrie (6-11, 230) came in averaging 17.1 and was held to 12 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out. Sidney and reserve forward Wendell Lewis (6-9, 253) combined for six points, both several points below their averages as well.

"They're tall and big across the front line," Murphy said. "We did a good job."