Middle Tennessee-Florida Preview
Florida has been short-handed since the season began, and now it won't be at full strength for at least another month.
Trying to extend their home winning streak to 19 games, the 16th-ranked Gators face Middle Tennessee on Thursday night in their first contest since Kasey Hill badly sprained his left ankle.
Hill was off to a fast start in his freshman season, averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 4.3 assists while totaling just four turnovers as the starting point guard for Florida (3-1). The McDonald's All-American had eight points at the half against Southern on Monday, but only played another two minutes in the 67-53 win after rolling his ankle on a drive to the basket.
X-rays taken Tuesday determined no broken bones, and coach Billy Donovan believes Hill will be sidelined at least a month.
"It's unfortunate. It's a part of the game," Donovan said. "We'll have to find some different ways to compensate for his absence."
The injury could pose some problems for the Gators, who have No. 2 Kansas, 11th-ranked Memphis and No. 18 Connecticut on the schedule in the next four weeks. Florida is already playing without suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin, which leaves guard DeVon Walker and versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith as the expected replacements for Hill.
Walker got extended work at the point Monday, finishing with 10 points and three assists after totaling four points and five assists in the first three games.
"Some things I was a little confused on but it's part of the experience," he said. "We've got practice and I'll feel better after that."
Playing short-handed, however, is nothing new for the Gators.
Besides Wilbekin, Finney-Smith and center Damontre Harris were suspended indefinitely to start the season. Finney-Smith's ban lasted two games and Wilbekin, who averaged 9.1 points in 29 starts last season, could return next week.
Guard Michael Frazier II (mononucleosis) and forward Will Yeguete (knee surgery) are both working their way back into playing form. Guard Eli Carter, who averaged 14.9 points in 18 starts for Rutgers last season and is eligible to play immediately, is still recovering from a broken leg.
"We'll go with what we've got," Donovan said. "We'll probably have to do some different things, make some lineup adjustments and changes, do some different things on defense, protect some guys in foul trouble and probably have multiple guys handle the ball."
Leading scorer Casey Prather is hoping to bounce back after missing 8 of 10 shots and finishing with 10 points against Southern. The senior forward had averaged 22.3 points on 67.6 percent shooting in his first three games.
Florida will be the third 2013 NCAA tournament team Middle Tennessee (4-0) faces. Although it has already beaten the first two (Akron, Southern), the Blue Raiders haven't faced a team as talented as Florida and they've yet to play a game on the road.
They're coming off Monday's 76-59 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock, extending their regular-season home win streak to 32 games. Kerry Hammonds had 20 points while Shawn Jones added 19 to go with 12 rebounds.
Middle Tennessee has been outscored by an average of 27.6 points in losing all 12 of its games against Top 25 teams over the past decade. It hasn't faced one since No. 10 Florida won 66-45 last November in Tampa in the first meeting between the programs.