Notebook: Prather plays through pain
Published: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 6:06 p.m.
Florida coach Billy Donovan woke up Saturday morning unsure if senior leading scorer Casey Prather was going to play against Alabama.
Prather had been in and out of practice during the week dealing with a mild ankle sprain that has lingered for more than a week.
“I really left it up to him,” Donovan said. “We had talked about just resting him, giving him some time.”
But the 6-foot-6 Prather insisted he was healthy enough to play. And the Jackson, Tenn., native responded with a big game against the Crimson Tide. Prather finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes, helping lift UF to a 78-69 win.
“Coach just wanted me to play all out, to push it,” Prather said. “It's more about a mental thing right now, if I can play through it.”
Prather had failed to score in double figures in his previous two games after a string of 18 straight games scoring at least 10 points. Donovan said because so much of Prather's game relies on finishing at the basket with his athletic ability, it was affecting his performance. Prather first injured the ankle taking a spill on the court during UF's Jan. 30 game at Mississippi State.
“When he knows he can do things physically, it just adds to his confidence,” Donovan said. “It has nothing to do with him making shots. It has to do with him moving. When he can't move the way he wants to move, I think he knows he's putting our team in jeopardy and it eats him alive and kills him.”
Chris Walker's second act
Florida freshman forward Chris Walker's second game mirrored his first. The 6-foot-10 forward from Bonifay finished with four points, a rebound and two fouls in four minutes off the bench.
Walker scored his two baskets on a wide-open dunk and a nice adjustment to tip in an alley-oop attempt from freshman teammate Kasey Hill.
Donovan admitted he needed to get more minutes out of his bench, mentioning Chris Walker, sophomore forward DeVon Walker and Hill.
“We need some of our younger guys to grow a little bit faster than they are right now,” Donovan said. “That would help our team.”
Mentor beats pupil
Donovan improved to 14-2 against former assistants and 8-0 against Alabama coach Anthony Grant.
Donovan was effusive in his praise of Grant, his former assistant coach at Marshall and UF from 1994-2006. Grant is on the hot seat in his sixth season at Alabama. The loss Saturday was Alabama's fourth straight, and the Crimson Tide have made the NCAA Tournament just once in Grant's previous five seasons.
“I thought their scheme in terms of attacking us was very, very good,” Donovan said. “I thought Anthony did a great job. I thought his staff did a tremendous job.”
Florida improved to 9-2 in games decided by single digits. The Gators were 0-6 in games decided by single digits last season. … Florida's current 29-game home win streak is tied with Duke and Stephen F. Austin for best in the nation among Division I teams. … Florida sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith had four points and a season-high five assists. Finney-Smith hit a pair of clutch free throws with 1:01 remaining to extend UF's lead to 76-67. … With 11 points against Alabama, Florida senior Patric Young moved past Al Horford for 40th in UF's all-time scoring list (1,124 points). Young's second-half dunk also tied him with Joakim Noah for the fifth-most dunks of any Gator (130).