Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It may not be the team everyone envisioned for Florida basketball’s 2013-14 season, but it’s the team the Gators have right now -- and maybe heading into the regular season -- and it ran away from Florida Southern for 110-88 exhibition game victory Friday night at the O’Connell Center.
“There are some things that have limited our development because of our numbers,” UF coach Billy Donovan said after watching his team of nine players, including a pair of walk-ons, scrap and battle in front of a paid crowd of 7,523. “We are behind.”
The games, however, go on.
Even the ones that don’t count.
Senior forward Casey Prather led seven UF players into double-figure scoring, finishing with 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Senior center Patric Young had 19 points and eight rebounds. Senior forward Will Yeguete came off the bench to score 12 points and clear nine rebounds.
Junior walk-on forward Jake Kurtz had 11 points and nine rebounds, nearly hitting a double-double in 25 very effective and active minutes. Sophomore guard DeVon Walker, in his first career start, and backup guard Eli Carter, the transfer from Rutgers, each added 11 points.
And finally there was freshman point guard Kasey Hill, whose much-anticipated debut was an eye-opener. Hill, who got the start with senior Scottie Wilbekin suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, lived up to his McDonald’s All-America billing with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The kid probably played through some butterflies, right?
"No,” Hill shot back confidently. “None at all.”
Hill’s 26 minutes were second-most on the team; a few too many, according to his coach.
“When he got a head of steam in the open floor, I think he made some really spectacular plays, but there were some times I think he stayed in the game too long. I overplayed him at times,” Donovan said. “When he’s cool, loose and casual with the ball, and maybe trying to catch his breath, he’s not as effective as when he’s playing like he’s been shot out of cannon.”
But it was a good start for Hill, who provided glimpses of that cannon-like explosiveness that made him one of the most coveted point guards in the country.
“I thought he did great for his first taste of college basketball,” Prather said. “I can’t wait to see him when he starts to really improve.”
Overall, as exhibition games go, it was pretty standard stuff. There were highlight plays, like Prather and Young dunks or Hill’s lightning-quick moves in the open court, and some sloppy moments, especially for the Gators on defense.
The Moccasins, who reached the Division II Elite last season, not only rang up 88 points against a team that played some of the best defense in the country last season, but they went 13-for-30 from the 3-point line (43.3 percent), including a stretch to start the second half when FSC hit treys on its first three possessions.
“It looked like a couple years ago when we were like 11th in the league in defending the 3,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do a better job.”
Florida is a long way from playing any Southeastern Conference games. How far away they are from playing with their full squad remains to be seen.
Wilbekin is joined on the “indefinite” suspended list by sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the transfer from Virginia Tech, and junior center Damontre Harris, the transfer from South Carolina. Sharp-shooting sophomore guard Michael Frazier II is sidelined with mononucleosis.
Those are four very good players unable to suit up, yet Friday the Gators took the court with nine that were plenty good enough -- to beat Florida Southern, that is.
“Coach D is not going to worry about who’s not here,” Yeguete said. “The good thing is we have this game and we can work and get better from it. I think we have really good chemistry between us. I have confidence in this team.”
That’s the consensus among the UF locker room.
“There’s definitely some stuff we have to get better at defensively,” Kurtz said. “But we’re not going to back down from anybody and think we don’t have a shot just because we’re a little short-handed right now.”