Gators' win over Southern uncomfortable, Hill injured
Published: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
The scream could be heard throughout the cavernous O'Connell Center.
Middle Tennessee State (4-0) at No. 16 Florida (3-1)
WHEN: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: SUN Sports/WRUF
Under the same basket where former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel suffered a season-ending torn ACL, Florida freshman phenom point guard Kasey Hill lay writhing in pain after turning his left ankle on a drive to the basket early in the second half against Southern.
Only Hill's injury turned out not to be as devastating, at least for now. Hill was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain following UF's 67-53 win over Southern, another blow to a team depleted early this season by injuries and suspensions.
Hill will have X-Rays on his injured ankle on Tuesday to check for any possible broken bones or torn ligaments. But Florida coach Billy Donovan said team trainers are confident with their initial diagnosis. Donovan said Hill will be out “a minimum of a month”, though the veteran coach has always erred on the side of caution when forecasting the length of recovery. Florida forward Casey Prather returned 18 days after suffering a high ankle sprain last season.
Replays showed that Hill's left ankle rolled to close to a 90 degree angle before he fell to the court.
“We've had to deal with this all over my tenure here,” Donovan said. “Al Horford had it, Matt Walsh had it. It's one of those sprains where it's certainly a longer healing process and when you try to rush guys back to soon it normally complicates things.
“It's unfortunate. It's a part of the game. We'll have to find some different ways to compensate for his absence.”
In the short term, that will include sophomore guard Michael Frazier, sophomore guard DeVon Walker and even sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith running the point until senior Scottie Wilbekin returns from suspension. Donovan said that Wilbekin will not return for Florida's next game Thursday at the O'Connell Center against Middle Tennessee State.
Frazier caught the ire Donovan late in the second half when he launched a 3-point attempt without initiating offense.
“I've learned to process what he's saying instead of how he's saying it,” Frazier said with a smile.
Hill had eight points and three assists at the time of the injury, which occurred at the 18:06 mark of the second half. At the time, the Gators (3-1) led 37-20. But without Hill on the floor, Florida's offense morphed into a mess of questionable shot selection.
“We got a little bit fractured there when Kasey went down,” Donovan said. “We had the lead up to 22 points. It was a little bit of a disaster on offense some possessions. Not anybody's fault. Just the way it was. One thing I respect about Kasey and love about him is how upbeat he can be for the team and happy the guys won and just like, 'I'll be back soon.' I admire the kid and how he handled himself.”
Hill's injury put a pall on another solid defensive effort for the Gators. Florida held Southern (1-4) to just 39.1 percent shooting from the floor, 18.8 percent from 3-point range and 19 first-half points. Florida outrebounded Southern 43-29 and scored 16 second-chance points.
“The last two games we've defended the 3-point line,” Donovan said. “I see our guys getting better, but we still have a long way to go."
Offensively, senior center Patric Young led three Gators in double-figures with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Casey Prather added 10 points for his fourth straight game in double figures, and sophomore guard DeVon Walker stepped up in Hill's absence with a career-high 10 points.
Finney-Smith, in his second game back from suspension, had eight points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes before fouling out with 4:10 remaining. Finney-Smith sat out Sunday's practice with an illness.
“I probably played him too many minutes,” Donovan said.
Graham to redshirt
Donovan announced after the game that sophomore guard Dillon Graham will redshirt this season and undergo surgery to repair bone spurs in his hip.
“That was the option they wanted to take,” Donovan said. “Whatever we can do to help him in that situation, we will.”
Donovan said the recovery time for the 6-foot-4 Graham will be four months.
The announced crowd was 8,002. … Prather matched a career-high with nine rebounds … Will Yeguete hit just his second career 3-pointer to put Florida up 47-30 in the second half. Yeguete is 2-of-6 for his career beyond the arc.