Despite being without scholarship players Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, the 10th ranked Gator men’s basketball team went into halftime of Friday night’s season tipoff game against Georgetown winning, 27-23. The game was being played on the USS Bataan battleship in Jacksonville but at halftime the basketball floor got wet and slippery while players warmed up for the second half. The floor literally could not stay dry for extended periods of time and was deemed unplayable due to the condensation. According to the rules, the game will be wiped from the season and won’t count for or against either team.
What fans and coaches did see from the Gators in their limited time on the court: an Orange and Blue defense that held the Hoyas to just 35.7% shooting from the floor, an improved offensive game from junior Will Yeguete who went 4 of 5 shooting on the night, and lots of Florida turnovers – eight to be exact. Another point of emphasis going into the game against Georgetown was winning the battle on the boards, which the Gators did 16-14.
UF Freshman Michael Frazier II and Dillion Graham were just a couple of the players that clocked into their college careers in Jacksonville. In lieu of the injured Prather and suspended Wilbekin, Donovan all but exhausted his options off the bench in an attempt to keep his starters fresh.
“The one thing I like about them, they’re fearless, they don’t get too rattled, they’re excited”, Donovan said, on how the underclassmen played. “First college game in this kind of environment, on national TV, I thought our guys came in there and gave us really good minutes.”
But despite the excitement of the season tipping off, especially on a ship, all the players and coaches agreed the night and experiences were about much more then what happened in 20 minutes on the hardwood.
“They didn’t say anything about our guys shaking their hands, I think our guys were moved in terms of what they were doing, and both Georgetown players and our players just wanted to show our appreciation”, said Donovan referring to player reactions following a ceremony honoring and swearing in several re-enlisting men.
Some players went even beyond that to show their gratitude.
“That was probably the first time I ever did that, and I just wish I could have gave him more just to let him know how thankful we are for what he’s done”, said UF center Patric Young when asked about giving his jersey to a serviceman postgame.
Up next for the Gators is their now new season opener in the O’Connell Center on Sunday against Alabama State at 3:30. Donovan said starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin’s chances of playing tomorrow are unlikely and the status of Casey Prather is unknown at this time.