Prather helps Gators pull away
Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 11:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 12:44 a.m.
Watching Florida's loss to Wisconsin on television, Florida sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith admitted he felt remorseful.
Who: Southern (1-3) at No. 11 Florida (2-1)
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: O'Connell Center
TV/Radio: Sun/103.7 FM
“It was really difficult, knowing that I put myself in a bad situation,” Finney-Smith said.
Finney-Smith said he knows it will take a while to atone for his mistake, but his much-anticipated debut for UF lived up to its billing. The 6-foot-8 transfer forward from Virginia Tech finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, lifting the No. 11 Gators to an 86-56 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday afternoon.
Finney-Smith wouldn't disclose why he was suspended. He sat out UF's first two games of the season and the preseason game against Florida Southern.
“My team had my back so I'm just trying to look forward, stay positive,” Finney-Smith said. “I kinda felt bad about the (Wisconsin) loss, but they just told me to stay positive.”
Senior forward Casey Prather led four UF scorers in double figures with 27 points. Florida (2-1) overcame a sluggish first half to score 59 points in a second half sparked by Finney-Smith and walk-on Jacob Kurtz.
“Those two guys did an unbelievable job, offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, loose balls” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That's where the game really changed and opened up is when we ended up getting after it.”
Finney-Smith displayed his versatility, going 5 of 10 from the floor and 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Of his nine rebounds, five were on the offensive glass.
“I was trying to keep my motor going,” Finney-Smith said. “Coach D said something about my motor, that I take plays off so I tried to challenge myself to attack the boards every possession.”
For Finney-Smith to keep his motor going was a challenge, considering that he was doubtful going into Saturday with an illness. Finney-Smith said he had to convince Donovan he could play during Saturday morning's shootaround. Donovan said he only expected Finney-Smith to play “about 10-15 minutes” but Finney-Smith wound up playing 15 minutes.
“I didn't really know what to expect from him,” Donovan said. “He had been out all week with his flu or illness.”
But Donovan was pleased with Finney-Smith's impact. With Finney-Smith, Prather and DeVon Walker on the floor at the same time, Florida went to the press more frequently in the second half. The Gators scored 25 points off Arkansas-Little Rock's 18 turnovers.
“He really moved the basketball, made the extra pass,” Donovan said. “With the way we run offense in the situations he's in a lot of times he's playing in space. And because he can shoot it, put it on the floor and pass he opens up a lot of other things for our guys.”
Florida outrebounded an opponent (40-36) for the first time this season and wound up with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (16-9). Point guard Kasey Hill added 14 points and six assists and Patric Young finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Hill hit a running jumper at the first-half buzzer to tie the score at 27 at halftime. But after a forgettable first half in which Florida made just 6 of 14 free throws, the Gators regrouped with their best 20 minutes of basketball of the season.
“We did a much better job on the glass, offense, everything else,” Donovan said. “More importantly, we finally got our assists up.”
FREE THROWS: Sophomore guard Dillon Graham sat out the UARL game with bone spurs on both hips. “It's become very painful for him,” Donovan said. “Right now what the trainer wants to do is shut him down a little bit and let it calm down.” … Donovan said guard Eli Carter (6 minutes, 0 points) could decide on his own to medically redshirt if his condition doesn't improve. Carter has been slow to recover from a broken right leg he suffered in February. Carter would have until the 30-percent mark in the season (Dec. 10) to make the decision. “I don't want him to have to waste a year playing on one leg,” Donovan said. “And I think everybody can clearly see that he's hobbled.” … Walk-on Lexx Edwards made his Florida debut, finishing with no points and one rebound in two minutes. Edwards has been practicing on and off with the Gators since 2011, but this was his first time suiting up in a UF uniform. … Walk-on Billy Donovan (St. Francis, Gainesville) recorded his first career assist for the Gators. … The announced crowd was 8,843.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.