South Region notebook

Mike Rosario’s reversal lifts University of Florida


Special to The Miami Herald

Lost in the hype of the matchup between Florida Gulf Coast University point guard Brett Comer and Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the difference senior Mike Rosario makes when he plays well for the Gators.

The dichotomy between good Rosario and bad Rosario is staggering.

In Florida’s opening-round win against Northwestern State, Rosario was benched for the final 13 minutes after failing to box out on a simple rebound opportunity. A similar situation occurred against Alabama on March 2 when Rosario was careless with the ball.

Less than 48 hours later, in Florida’s Round of 32 win over Minnesota, Rosario lit up the scoreboard with 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range. He was unstoppable and helped the Gators on a night leading scorer Kenny Boynton accounted for just seven points.

Rosario has been the epitome of an enigma after transferring to Florida from Rutgers following his sophomore season. He didn’t play much last season and did not make a single start as a redshirt junior, struggling to stay on the floor because of mistakes.

After two full seasons under Billy Donovan’s tutelage, that all changed this season.

Rosario led the team in scoring 15 times this season and started all 34 games. He is one of the top 50 active scorers in the nation and a key piece of UF’s team.

Earlier this week, Donovan admitted that when all is said and done, he will look back on the turnaround of Rosario as one his most rewarding coaching accomplishments.

“There are so many things for him that I love about him. He’s got such a good heart, he’s a good kid,” Donovan said, adding that holding Rosario accountable on and off the court has been instrumental in his success. “I give him credit that he, in basically 36 hours, can turn back around and re-shift his focus and come out and play like he did. And I don’t know if we don’t as a coaching staff hold him accountable, that he could have played the way he did against Minnesota.”

Liking It Sweet

The Gators under Donovan entered Friday’s game against FGCU 5-1 in Sweet 16 games.

Florida’s last loss in the Sweet 16 came against Gonzaga in 1999 as a No. 6 seed. With more than 48 hours to prepare for a game in the tournament, Donovan has been lethal, beating Duke (2000), Georgetown (2006), Butler (2007), BYU (2011) and Marquette last season.

Internet Hit

After capturing the nation’s attention by becoming the first No. 15 seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16, FGCU has become more popular than pop icon Justin Bieber — at least when it comes to Internet searches this week.

According to Yahoo!, FGCU is being searched more times this week Bieber, North Korea, Lindsay Lohan, and Dancing With The Stars. The team is the most-searched of the 16 remaining in the NCAA Tournament.

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