Updated on Nov. 3 at 9:00 p.m.
No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball got a chance to work out some kinks Friday night, exactly one week ahead of their 2013-14 season opener, with a 110-88 victory over the Florida Southern Mocs at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
HIGHLIGHTS (via GatorVision)
Senior forward Casey Prather was the main man for Florida, registering game-highs in points (23), assists (7) and steals (4) while grabbing six rebounds, shooting 8-of-10 from the field and hitting all seven of his free throw attempts in 22 minutes.
Prather definitely looked like he had taken yet another step forward in the offseason, displaying an even temperament and driving to the hoop with authority. He had a couple of highlight dunks and showed great confidence and poise throughout the evening.
First-year point guard Kasey Hill took a first step toward living up to the hype his five-star rating has placed upon his shoulders. His speed helped him blow past defenders – and even his own teammates – as he drove to the hoop with ease in transition and showed the type of tenacity at the position that Florida has been searching for since Taurean Green left the team in 2007.
Hill finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting with three dimes and three boards. He missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and committed three turnovers in the contest but appeared to be on the same page with his teammates.
“He showed some really great glimpses in transition, open floor passes. Obviously as a freshman he’s going to have some growing pains and some ups and downs. He had some turnovers, didn’t have a high number of assists, but certainly his explosiveness in the open floor showed out when he had a head of steam,” Donovan said.
“I’m going to probably need to learn him a little bit in terms of what his body language looks like when he starts to get tired. But I still think that the tempo, the pace he needs to play with, he needs to play with that level of intensity all the time.”
NINE IS FINE
Due to injuries and suspensions, the Gators only played nine guys on Friday – seven scholarship student-athletes and two walk-ons. Six of those seven scholarship players scored in double figures (sophomore guard Dillon Graham missed all six of his shots), as did junior walk-on Jacob Kurtz, who went 5-for-6 for 11 points and added a game-high nine rebounds.
“He’s a good player. What you saw out there today I see every day in practice,” said Donovan of Kurtz. “He kind of hangs around, he grabs a couple rebounds, comes up with loose basketballs, he makes some good passes, he kind of hangs around the basket, he’ll make a layup, deflect the ball. I think he can really, really help us. He’s a really smart player. He’s really, really smart. He’s very, very bright. … He doesn’t do anything he’s incapable of doing. He just knows how to play.”
Senior forward Will Yeguete (knee), who only played 18 minutes (second fewest on the team behind redshirt junior walk-on Billy Donovan), matched Kurtz with nine boards and scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
After missing his first two free throws, senior center Patric Young hit seven of his next eight, finishing with eight boards and 19 points while going 6-for-8 from the floor. He displayed a slightly improved motor late in the game and did a nice job cleaning up around the basket as well.
“Really, really happy with Patric,” Donovan said. “I thought Patric had a really good motor tonight. I thought he was very aggressive. I thought he came out passionate. I thought he ran the floor. I thought his condition was very good. I really, really like the way he played, and I think you can see he spent some time with his free throw shooting, shot 70 percent from the free throw line tonight.
“I was very, very happy with Patric. We need that kind of consistently out of him really every game. … That’s the expectation I would have for Patric, what he did tonight.”
Neither junior G Eli Carter (leg) nor sophomore F DeVon Walker had notable performances. Both finished with 11 points, while Carter had two steals and Walker picked up eight rebounds.
“I thought our conditioning looked pretty good out there running up and down the floor,” Donovan said. “There are some things that have limited our development because of our numbers, because of guys’ injuries, because of sometimes only having six guys. There’s no question. We are behind.”
FLIP IT AND REVERSE IT
Florida was a team that won last season by playing sound defense and making a ton of three pointers. As Donovan forewarned throughout the week, UF has struggled in both areas during practice and looked exactly as he described on Friday night.
The Gators hit just 20.8 percent of their triples (5-of-24) while allowing the Mocs to net 43.3 percent of their attempts (13-of-30). Florida did not look as cohesive on the defensive end as it did a year ago and obviously has some work to do in that area.
“We’re a team right now that, last year we gave up 54 points per game. We gave up 41 in the first half and 47 in the second half [on Friday]. We gave up 88 points. That’s never happened to this group. As I said, we’re a long way away defensively, and in particular the three-point line,” explained Donovan.
“It’s not so much our defense on the ball, it’s our positioning off the ball. We put ourselves in very, very difficult situations. … Some of our newer players don’t understand that yet. They get caught in these bad positions; their feet are below the three-point line. … Those numbers looked like they were a couple year ago when we were like 11th in the league in defending the three. We’re going to have to do a better job.”
Another facet of the game in which the Gators made their mark last season was in assist-to-turnover ratio. Florida had 18 of each Friday and also picked up 18 fouls on the evening. Florida Southern registered 21 assists to just 15 turnovers but committed a whopping 28 fouls in the game.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» The Gators and Mocs squared off for the first time since 2004. UF won that exhibition game 105-65.
» Florida has now won 23-straight exhibition games dating back to 2002.
» UF won both halves, outscoring the visitors by nine and 13, respectively.
» Three players – senior PG Scottie Wilbekin, redshirt junior C Damontre Harris and redshirt sophomore G/F Dorian Finney-Smith – missed the game due to suspension. Sophomore G Michael Frazier II (mono) was also held out of action.
» The Gators open the 2013-14 regular season on Friday, Nov. 8 against North Florida. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. from the O’Dome.
» Donovan on why Yeguete decided to play: “I talked to Will Yeguete after practice and I told him I really thought it was smart for him to play this game just to get his feet wet, just to legitimately see in a game where he’s at. He had not practiced a couple times during the week.”
» Donovan on Carter’s performance: “You can see he’s hobbled out there, but he’s really a good player. He’s smart. He knows how to play. It’s pretty impressive that a guy can be effective out there playing and he’s almost playing on one foot. The problem is he’s got some lack of mobility in his ankle. He’s not moving through his ankle like he needs to. It’s going to be a little bit of a process, but he gets better every day. But he’s really a smart player. He knows how to play. I really wish for our team and for his sake he would be fully healthy because I think he’d really be a fun guy to coach. He is a fun guy to coach because he’s got such a great feel of how to play, but I’d love to see him at full strength.”
» Donovan on his watching his son play and score in a Florida uniform: “That was great, a thrill for me obviously to have him on the team and be able to coach him and him to get an opportunity to go out there and play. That was fun for me, but I was really more happy for him than myself. My wife is probably happy to that she could get a chance to watch him and doesn’t have to travel to Washington D.C. to do that. … He give sour team and myself everything he has every single day.”