Rosario shines as No. 8 Florida wins opener, 99-59
By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Mike Rosario pumped his first as he walked off the court, acknowledging a group of students screaming his name.
It was a great feeling. And a long time coming.
Rosario, a former Rutgers standout who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules, scored 19 points in his Florida debut and the No. 8 Gators handled Jackson State 99-59 on Friday night.
"It's been a long, bumpy road for me, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," Rosario said. "I wouldn't take back the whole year I sat out. I would trade it for nothing because I'm around a great group of guys and I feel like we have a great, great goal to accomplish this year."
Rosario finished 7 of 12 from the floor and 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Fellow guard Kenny Boynton also scored 19, one of six Florida players in double figures.
Highly touted freshman Bradley Beal added 14 in an off shooting night. Sophomore Patric Young had the first double-double of his career, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Erving Walker chipped in 10 points.
Jenirro Bush led Jackson State with 20 points. He was 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Gators extended their winning streak in openers to 21, and this was the widest margin of victory in the two decades.
Florida built a 30-point lead midway through the first half and started the second half with a 15-0 run that turned a lopsided game into a laugher. The rout surely gave the Gators extra confidence heading into Tuesday night's game at No. 3 Ohio State.
"It's one of those games where things you've got to get better are going to get exposed," coach Billy Donovan said. "We're going to have to address something coming out of that game. Something's going to get exposed that we're going to have to look at and you guys will ask me, `Is that going to be a problem for the whole entire year?'
"Really good teams expose things that you have to get better at."
The Gators had little go wrong in the opener.
Much of Florida's success came off turnovers and from behind the 3-point line. The Gators scored 37 points off 24 turnovers and made 13 of 30 shots from behind the arc.
Rosario led the way from long range.
"He can really shoot," Donovan said. "Mike shot the ball very, very well from behind the line. ... When the floor's spaced like it is, there's so much shooting out there. Mike just happened to be on the receiving end of knocking down a lot of shots."
Florida made seven of its first nine shots. Boynton, expected to get more open looks this season with the addition of Rosario and Beal, hit two 3s. Walker scored on a driving layup and Beal sank a running floater.
Young was active, too. He had tip-ins, layups, dunks and even a short jumper in the first half. He finished 6 of 8 from the field and added three assists. He will have a much tougher matchup against Ohio State center Jared Sullinger.
"We've got to keep the intensity up," Young said.
Rosario and Beal should help.
Rosario averaged 16.7 points a game for Rutgers in the 2009-10 season. He transferred to Florida and had to sit out last season.
"I've been through the best of the best in the Big East," Rosario said. "For us to have our second game of the season against Ohio State, and me coming back this year to play, it means a lot because now you get to really, really compete against the best of the best and I'm looking forward to it."
Beal was one of the nation's most coveted recruits. He chose Florida, giving Donovan his most polished freshman in 16 seasons. Yes, more mature than Mike Miller, Al Horford or Nick Calathes.
Beal was 1 of 6 from 3-point range Friday, but he did enough everywhere else to offset his shooting woes. He delivered a perfect bounce pass on the break and blocked a shot on the other end. His putback just before the buzzer put the Gators up 59-23.
"He never gets rattled," Donovan said. "He had 10 points in the first half and you didn't even recognize it. ... He just plays the game. He's got great pace. The thing makes him such a good player is he's not a high-volume shooter. He scores very, very quietly and he's very efficient when he scores."
Jackson State, picked to finish third in the Southwest Athletic Conference, cut into the lead in the second half - partly because Bush stayed hot from 3-point range and partly because the Gators went deep into their bench.
Nonetheless, coach Tevester Anderson heaped praise on Florida.
"I have a vote in the Top 25 Coaches Poll, and I'm going to vote them higher than what they are right now," Anderson said. "They are a much better basketball team than we voted them in the initial vote. ... They are a solid team in every facet."
Updated November 11, 2011