Big game signals improvement from Young

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Looks like Patric Young’s right ankle is doing just fine.

Florida’s sophomore center showed no sign of the nagging injury that has plagued him since the middle of January against Kentucky on Sunday. That’s one bit of good news for the Gators, as they head into this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament on a three-game losing streak.

Young scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in UF’s 74-59 loss to top-ranked Kentucky in front of 12,113 at the O’Connell Center. It was the most points he’s ever scored in an SEC game and just four points shy of his career-high 25 against Arizona on Dec. 7. Young went 10-for-15 from the field and took the ball right at UK’s formidable frontcourt of Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones.

"Patric Young was a beast," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Patric Young plays like that they’re fine in postseason. They’re fine.

"Patric, whatever you had for breakfast this morning, eat it [again], because he dominated us. He was really, really good."

Young has been inconsistent in his first season as a starter and hadn’t scored more than eight points in his four previous games -- in fact, he scored a total of 19 points against Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Against Kentucky, though, he was active on offensive glass and ran the court better than he has in the past month.

"It's just a mentality," Young said. "I can do that every day. I just have to come in with the right mindset to practice, to the game. Any given night, we have so many scorers on our team. It just happened to be my night. My teammates were able to find me. Hopefully I can continue this on to the SEC tournament."

That would certainly give the Gators (22-9, 10-6 SEC) -- who have their first three-game losing streak since the 2009-10 season -- a lift. UF’s frontcourt depth has been minimized with the loss of its best post defender, Will Yeguete, for the rest of the season because of a broken foot. Much more is being placed on the 6-foot-9, 247-pound Young’s shoulders, and UF coach Billy Donovan isn’t sure just yet if Young is capable of handling the additional load.

Young’s inconsistency in practice and his stretches on the court in which he plays without the emotion that is so important to his game has befuddled his coach.

"This has been, I think as a coach, rewarding for me, frustrating for me, scratch my head sometimes, trying to get Patric to understand that he can control his mindset in getting himself prepared to play," Donovan said. "I don’t know if Patric ever understood how challenging it was going to be for him. I think he just figured, 'Vernon [Macklin] and Alex [Tyus] are gone and I’m just going to step right in and this is what I’m going to do. I’m big and strong, and everything’s going to be good.' I think he got challenged in a lot of different ways, by me, by himself, by the competition. [And] there’s been a level of inconsistency because of that.

"But, I do think there's a growth and a maturity that Patric is going through right now."

It showed up on Sunday afternoon, but not when things were going well. Young had four shots blocked by Davis and Jones. The first came less than seven minutes into the game when Davis stuffed a right-handed hook shot. In the past, that would have demoralized Young -- his first shot against Vanderbilt on Feb. 4 got blocked and he took just two more and ended up with a season-low two points -- but he kept going at Davis and Young all game long.

"A lot of people still think I can’t score down low," Young said. "I am just going to keep trying to do what I can do to prove people wrong, and if it’s my night, it’s my night."

Sunday, it was. But he needs to have a lot more if the Gators are going to make any kind of run in the NCAA tournament.