#7 Gators Take Down Auburn at Wounded Knee 66-61

“I’m pretty doubtful he’ll play much, that’s just my guess because here we are a day away from the game and he’s done nothing contact-wise.”

Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan on Friday concerning the status of forward Casey Prather

Casey Prather returned from a knee injury to lead the Florida Gators over the Auburn Tigers. Photocredit to sportstalkflorida.com

Casey Prather returned from a knee injury to lead the Florida Gators over the Auburn Tigers. Photocredit to sportstalkflorida.com

Well, yeah, so much for that. Prather, who sat out the last two games due to a bruised knee, looked anything but rusty. In fact, the first ten minutes of the game against the Auburn Tigers was the Casey Prather show as he dropped fourteen points to help the Gators jump out to a quick 23-10 lead with a 14-1 run. Unfortunately, for the Gators it didn’t last long as the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to get back in it leading to a Gator one point halftime lead at 33-32. From there it was a dogfight as the resilient Tigers hung around throughout but ultimately fell to the Gators 66-61. The Gators moved to 15-2 on the season, 4-0 in the SEC while the Tigers dropped to 8-7 (0-4).

With the SEC’s leading three point shooter Michael Frazier held scoreless, it was a senior laden effort led by the Gators behind Prather’s game high 21 points, point guard Scottie Wilbekin’s timely clutch shooting, Patric Young’s inspired paint presence, and Will Yeguete’s strong defensive effort.  Wilbekin finished with 15 points while Young had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and a block. Will Yeguete had a big game with 4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 steals. Yeguete repeatedly made hustle plays diving for loose balls, tying up Auburn players, and forcing Tiger turnovers.

It certainly looked like the Gators would run away with it early as they opened strong forcing ten first half Tiger turnovers and scoring at will. They finished the first half shooting better than 60% from the floor. However, they allowed the Tigers to get back in it by turning the ball over themselves, something that Donovan has expressed concern about all season, and not defending the three point line. Auburn went 5-5 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.

Scottie Wilbekin made clutch shots to lead the Gators over Auburn.

Scottie Wilbekin made clutch shots to lead the Gators over Auburn.

Wilbekin, who made clutch shots throughout, opened the scoring in the second half with a huge three point shot giving the Gators a four point cushion and the they would never relinquish the lead. Time and again Auburn threatened getting the lead to one a few different times, but the Gators got clutch plays from Wilbekin, Prather, and Young to stay ahead. While Prather led the Gators, Scottie Wilbekin saved them repeatedly answering the bell when it appeared as though Auburn might make a run.

Auburn put on another inspiring effort behind guards Chris Denson who finished with 21 points and K.T. Harrell who scored 18. Denson repeatedly was quicker than the Gator guards penetrating the lane off of screens and hitting short jumpers and contested lay-ins. Harrell kept the Tiger’s in it with clutch three point shooting hitting 4-7 for the game.

The Gators survived a tough road game in front of an inspired crowd and will now travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama on Thursday. Tipoff is at 7 pm eastern time and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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