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Saturday November 10, 2012Gators Focused and Locked in for "Second" Season Opener

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As the game officials and city of Jacksonville officials debated the fate of Friday night's Navy/Marines Corps Classic during halftime in the Mayport mist, there was discussion on how the outcome, if any, would be determined.

That's when Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team led Georgetown 27-23 at the time, chimed in.

"Oh, we're gonna have a winner of this game, no question," he said.

A group, including Hoyas coach John Thompson III, who had no interest in continuing the game, looked confused.

"No, someone is leaving here with a win tonight," Donovan said, turning to Thompson. "John, you and I are jumping off this ship and the first to that far buoy and back wins."

Everyone laughed.

And then the game was cancelled.

So the 10th-ranked Gators will move on to their second season opener, set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. against Alabama State at the O'Connell Center.

The team got back from the battleship around 1:30 a.m. Saturday and were on the practice court (a dry, indoor one) at 3:30 p.m. That was about the same time Loucheiz Purifoy was blocking a Louisiana punt and Jelani Jenkins was returning it for a touchdown with two seconds left to give the UF football team a 27-20 miracle homecoming victory.

Donovan wasted no time seizing on the Ragin Cajuns' near upset as a teaching moment for his team before it took the floor for practice, reminding the Gators how anything can happen. In Donovan's world, yes, even against a Hornets team that lost its Friday opener by 43 points against Middle Tennessee State.

"Got to be focused," he said. "Gotta be locked in."

UF again will be without point guard Scottie Wilbekin (suspended) and forward Casey Prather (concussion), so Donovan and his staff will experiment with various lineups -- the Gators opened big against the Hoyas, but may not against the Hornets -- and take lots of looks at their four freshmen, all of whom played Friday night.

Florida shot 45.5 percent in their lone half (though making just 3-for-10 from the 3-point arc) and held Georgetown to 35.7 percent. Again, those were outdoor-affected numbers.

The coaches, players and even fans surely are anxious to see what the Gators can do indoors for a full 40 minutes.

No. 10 Florida vs. Alabama State
Tip-off: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. (O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.)
Records: Florida 0-0; Alabama State 0-1
TV: Sun Sports (w/Larry Vettel and Bill Koss)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) --  Sirius 220/XM 199
Game notes: Florida notes
Need to know: The Gators played just 20 minutes of basketball Friday night, so they'll be anxious to get a full game in before their home crowd after the original 2012-13 season opener was cancelled at halftime on the USS Bataan due to condensation on the court. ... UF has won 21 consecutive home openers, including all 16 under Coach Billy Donovan, who for the second time in two three days will be coaching his 600th career game. ... With junior PG Scottie Wilbekin serving a suspension for violating team rules, Florida's starting lineup figures to look the same as it did in Friday's half against Georgetown, which means junior Will Yeguete (team-high 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting and 4 rebounds) will get another first start at the small forward spot, which he had never played as a Gator until two days ago. Seniors G Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg last season, 40.7 percent from 3-pt range), senior F Erik Murphy (10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 42.1 percent 3-pt range) and junior C Patric Young (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) make up a trio of returning starters from last year's 26-11 team, with senior G Mike Rosario (6.6 ppg) rounding out the starting five. ... Freshmen G Michael Frazier likely will be the first Gator off the bench and could play any of three sports (two-guard, small forward or power forward). ... The four four freshmen combined to take just one shot against the Hoyas. ... The Gators and Hornets have played just one other time, with UF winning 87-60 on Nov. 28, 2005. ... Alabama State competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Hornets went 12-19, including 9-9 in their league, last season, and is led by F Phillip Crawford (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg in '11-12).


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