UF MEN'S BASKETBALL

Gators have tough challenge at Wisconsin


Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 11, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan understands the challenge that awaits the Gators on Tuesday night at Wisconsin.

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Florida senior forward Casey Prather had a career-high 28 points and 8 rebounds against UNF.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

Facts

TUESDAY'S GAME

Who: No. 11 Florida Gators (1-0) vs. No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0)
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
When: 9 p.m.
TV: ESPN2
Radio: AM 850, 103.7 FM

Donovan has taken a tough stand by forcing senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and junior center Damontre Harris to sit out a national-showcase game for disciplinary reasons. But the veteran coach also knows that Florida will need to play better in all phases in order to have a chance in Madison against the Badgers.

Florida's season-opening 77-69 win over UNF on Friday underscored UF's issues on defense. The short-handed Gators, playing with a rotation of eight scholarship players and two walk-ons, allowed the Ospreys to shoot 40.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range.

“If we play that way like we did on Friday, we have no shot to win the game,” Donovan said,

Donovan has challenged his three seniors — forward Casey Prather, forward Will Yeguete and center Patric Young, to provide leadership and production on the road. Prather couldn't have done much more against UNF, finishing with a career-high 28 points and 8 rebounds. But Yeguete (2 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) and Young (2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) struggled, going a combined 0 for 6 from the field.

“Those guys have got to be the anchor, the foundation,” Donovan said.

Defending the 3-point line has been another issue for the Gators. Florida allowed nine 3-pointers against UNF after giving up 13 3-pointers in its exhibition win over Florida Southern. Wisconsin made 11 3-pointers in its season-opening 86-75 win over St. John's.

“He's really been harping on us getting as a team defensively,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. “And this team that we're playing is a really good team. They move the ball well, they spread the floor with shooters and they know what they're doing on offense. So if we don't come ready to play, focused on the defense, then they're going to clog us up.”

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill will be thrown into a hostile environment in his second career game. The 6-foot-1 McDonald's All-American was up and down in his college debut, overcoming first-half foul trouble to finish with 15 points and 4 assists.

Frazier provided a nice boost for Florida off the bench and will need to continue to provide some punch from the perimeter. When Florida beat Wisconsin 74-56 last season at the O'Connell Center, departed senior Erik Murphy went 10-for-10 from the field for 24 points. Florida shot just 20 percent from 3-point range (2-10) in its season opener, though Frazier is a proven shooter (46.8 percent from 3-point range as a freshman) capable of getting on a roll.

Frazier is still recovering from mononucleosis and was in-and-out of workouts over the weekend. But the 6-foot-4 guard is feeling closer to 100 percent.

“I'm not 100 percent but I'm getting better every day,” Frazier said.

Frazier said Florida players are looking forward to the tough early test. The game will air on ESPN2 and is part the network's two-day college basketball marathon.

“It's a huge challenge,” Frazier said. “But in order to be a great team, you have to take on challenges head on and give your best shot because Wisconsin is a very good team. We've got to be ready to play them.”

Who: No. 11 Florida Gators (1-0) vs. No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0)

When:9 p.m.

Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.

Gainesville-area TV: ESPN2

Gainesville-area radio: AM 850, 103.7 FM

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Michael Frazier II 6-4 So. 19.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg

G Kasey Hill 6-1 Fr. 15.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

F Casey Prather 6-6 Sr. 28.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg

F DeVon Walker 6-6 So. 4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

G Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

G Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 19.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg

G Traevon Jackson Jr. 6-2 Jr. 13.0 ppg, 4.0 apg

F Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

C Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 2.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Notes: Florida is 2-1 all-time against Wisconsin, including a 74-56 win over the Badgers at the O'Connell Center last season. … Led by senior forward Casey Prather's 28 points, the short-handed Gators downed UNF 77-69 in their season opener. … Florida made its first 17 free-throw attempts in the win and finished 27 of 32 (.844) from the charity stripe. … Florida will be facing a ranked team for the first time this season. Last season, Florida went 4-2 against ranked team ranked in AP Top 25, but 0-2 on the road. … Wisconsin played Florida last season without point guard Josh Gasser, who finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds in the Badgers' season-opening 86-75 win over St. John's. …. Wisconsin returns two starters from a team that finished 23-12 and reached the NCAA Tournament last season.

Three things to watch

1. Prather vs. Dekker

Florida forward Casey Prather is playing with a high-level of confidence after his 28-point game against UNF. “For the first time in his career, he's playing with a clear head,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. But Prather will face an interesting challenge facing Wisconsin sophomore forward Sam Dekker, who is coming off a 19-point, 8 rebound game against St. John's. Donovan said Prather will get help guarding Dekker. Donovan knows Dekker's ability, having coached the 6-foot-7 forward on his gold-medal winning Team USA 18-under team two years ago. “I have a lot of respect for him,” Donovan said. “He's got constant movement, great energy. I do think early in his career he's probably been hobbled, has deal with some ankle injuries, but he appears to be pretty healthy right now.”

2. Staying out of foul trouble

Patric Young and Kasey Hill each picked up two first-half fouls against UNF. The foul trouble hamstrung the Gators at the point guard spot because the Gators don't have a natural backup at the position with Scottie Wilbekin suspended. Florida tried several different options at the point guard spot with Hill on the bench, including DeVon Walker, Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham and walk-on Billy Donovan. Donovan wants his team to maintain a level of aggressiveness on defense without fouling. “you can go in there to any game trying to stay out of foul trouble, and if you do that, what happens is you become very weak defensively, become weak at the basket and inevitably you give up way too high of a percentage,” Donovan said.

3. Getting the big guy involved

Hampered with foul trouble, Florida senior center Patric Young finished with just two points on two-shot attempts. Florida freshman point guard Kasey Hill said after the game he felt the Gators could have done a better job of getting Young the ball in the post. Young has a favorable matchup inside against the less athletic 7-foot Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. “We're going to try to get him more involved early on in the game,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier said. “Establish the inside presence and then play inside-out. “

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