Georgia at Florida game preview
GAME TIME: 7 p.m.
Casey Prather’s bruised right knee is improving — just not quickly enough to play Tuesday night.
No. 7 Florida ruled out its leading scorer Monday, saying Prather won’t play against Georgia. The senior forward is still dealing with pain and swelling, and coach Billy Donovan has no timetable for his return.
"He still has issues," Donovan said. "He’s getting better. He’s progressing. When he’ll be available to play, I don’t know."
Prather, who is averaging 17.0 points a game this season and leads the Southeastern Conference in shooting at 62.4 percent, sat out Saturday’s 84-82 overtime victory at Arkansas. Dorian Finney-Smith started in his place and finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Finney-Smith likely will replace Prather in the starting lineup again.
"It just means that other people need to step up," guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "I know you guys have heard coach (Donovan) say all he needs is five guys to go out there, and we have the same mindset as a team. I wish he was going to be out there playing with us, but if he’s not, then we’ve just got to go out with what we’ve got. And I’m confident that we can win without him."
The Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) have won 24 in a row at home, tying the school record set between March 2006 and November 2007. They have won 11 straight at home against the Bulldogs (8-6, 2-0).
Florida also has won seven straight and 12 of 13, the lone loss a buzzer-beater at then-No. 12 UConn in early December.
The 6-foot-6 Prather has been a big reason for the team’s success. After averaging just 6.2 points a game last season, Prather has found a role as a slashing player who gets easy baskets in transition and gets to the free throw line on a regular basis.
He also is averaging 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in nearly 30 minutes a game. And he’s one of the team’s better defenders.
"For any player, it would be frustrating, but especially for him," guard DeVon Walker said. "He’s had like an amazing season. He understands that it’s part of the process; you’re going to get hurt sometimes. But he’ll be back soon enough, so it’s good."
The Gators had little trouble in their two matchups against the Bulldogs last season, winning 77-44 at home and 64-47 in Athens. Wilbekin, who has combined for 35 points in Florida’s two conference games, totaled 25 in those matchups.
Georgia is coming off Saturday’s 66-58 victory over Alabama after winning in overtime at then-No. 21 Missouri in its SEC opener.
Charles Mann (14.1 points per game) and Kenny Gaines (12.2) each scored 22 Saturday for the Bulldogs, who are off to their best conference start since opening 3-0 in 2001-02.
"I was really proud that we backed up Wednesday’s win with another one," coach Mark Fox said. "This is the first time that I’ve thought we’ve handled success fairly well. Now we have to keep moving forward and keep getting better because we can really improve as a team."