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Monday January 14, 2013Gators Prepare for Challenging Week With Depleted Roster

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Texas A&M is famous for its 12th man in football, but you can bet the Aggies will have a sixth man-like home court advantage working Thursday night when they welcome 10th-ranked Florida to town. 

 

And speaking of the number six, that’s basically how many players the Gators had to lean on to beat LSU over the weekend. 

 

With guard Mike Rosario sidelined by a sprained left ankle and forward Casey Prather joining him on the bench with a far more severe sprain of the left ankle, Florida basically was reduced to a six-player rotation, yet still managed to win by 22 on the road. 

 

Rosario is expected to be available for the Gators (12-2, 2-0) against the red-hot Aggies (12-3, 2-0), while Coach Billy Donovan said Monday that Prather, who was averaging 6.8 points and 3.3 rebounds and started the previous two games, could miss 10-14 days. 

 

Top end, that could be four games. 

 

“Thank God it’s not a severe high ankle sprain where you’re out for a month to six weeks,” Donovan said. “It’s something, hopefully, he can get back [from].”

 

Prather was in a boot and on crutches Monday. That wasn’t the case for Rosario last week after he injured his ankle midway through the team’s home won against Georgia but managed to finish the game. He was actually cleared at LSU, but did not play. 

 

Just what the lineup juggle means for the Gators heading to College Station, Texas, and for the quick turnaround against the Southeastern Conference’s newest teams -- UF plays host to No. 17 Missouri just 43 hours later -- remains to be seen. 

 

Florida has started six different combinations this season, including five over the previous eight games. After freshman guard Michael Frazier II answered the call with career-highs of seven rebounds, three assists and 31 minutes Saturday, Donovan may look to the rookie to start at that hybrid small forward/guard spot and let Rosario (and his ankle) come off the bench.

 

“Mike Frazier has proven to be a much better rebounder than anyone anticipated,” Donovan said. 

 

Without Prather and with Rosario coming off the injury, the Gators may be less inclined to press the Aggies, but that’s something Donovan may gauge during the game. A&M certainly is capable of playing at a fast face, what with its 83-71 upset Saturday of Kentucky at Rupp Arena, where guard Elston Turner lit up the Wildcats for 40 points.

 

Now, how fired up is the A&M crowd when the SEC’s first top-10 team comes into Reed Arena? 

 

“We can’t come in there underestimating them because Kentucky, even though they’re not playing as great as everyone predicted, is still a very talented team,” UF junior center Patric Young said. “We’re going to have to ready for Texas A&M because they can win games. They’re just as capable of winning the league as we are -- as anyone else. So we’ve just got to come in there with the right mindset.”

 

Because they certainly don’t have the right lineup. Not right now. 

 

“That's just kind of things that happen,” Donovan said. 

 

As a result, the six-man combo of Young and forwards Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete up front, plus Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin and Frazier in the backcourt, accounted for 96 of UF’s 100 second-half minutes at LSU. Freshman guard Dillion Graham, called on sparingly in the first half, got the other four after the break. 

 

“I don’t think anyone getting hurt is necessarily good, but a team that’s able to bounce back and play a really good game with some of their best players out, that shows a lot about their team,” Young said. “Just wait until we have everybody healthy.”

 

That may be a while. 

 

In the interim -- this week -- comes maybe the toughest/quickest two-game stretches of the young SEC season. 

 

 

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