Prather gives Gators a boost
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 11:57 p.m.
Facing an overmatched Georgia team in its conference opener Wednesday, strong SEC contender Florida got off to a predictably strong start at the O'Connell Center.
The unpredictable part? Florida's catalyst was a player making his first start in more than a year.
With senior Erik Murphy nursing a broken rib that forced him to miss Florida's game at Yale on Sunday and junior Will Yeguete dealing with knee tendinitis, forward Casey Prather earned his first start in almost two years.
Prather responded with the same energy he typically brings off the bench, scoring the game's first six points, capping the run with a dunk that brought a packed O'Connell Center crowd to its feet and started an 11-0 run.
“It was just a good feeling because the crowd was into it and I saw my teammates jumping around,” Prather said. “It was just a great energy boost to our team.”
Murphy and Yeguete played in the Gators' 77-44 win over the Bulldogs, but Florida coach Billy Donovan was pleased with what Prather was able to provide, both offensively and defensively.
“Besides winning the game, one thing that was a positive for us is those guys (Murphy and Yeguete) did not have to absorb a lot of minutes tonight, and I thought Casey and Patric (Young) did a great job for us in the frontcourt and played very, very well,” Donovan said.
Prather made 5 of his 7 shots to finish the game with 10 points, adding seven rebounds and three steals in a well-rounded effort. He also played strong minutes in Murphy's absence at Yale with nine points and six rebounds.
“He's given us a different dimension and different kind of guy because when we play him at the power forward spot, he's an undersized forward, but he's quick, he's athletic,” Donovan said. “He grabbed some incredible rebounds today in traffic. … He was really good in the press, and I thought it's been two games now where he's kind of gotten back to maybe the way he was at the end of last year.”
Donovan told Prather at the morning shootaround Wednesday that he would start against Georgia.
“He deserved it,” Florida guard Mike Rosario said. “He's been practicing well the last few weeks. Coach told him at the last minute he was starting, and he came out ready for us and on edge.”
Prather was pleased with the Gators' first SEC win Wednesday, but knows there's still room for improvement for a team with lofty aspirations.
“Now we're playing for something special,” Prather said. “We want to be a special team.”