Maybe it was a new starter. Maybe it was the biggest student turnout in seven years (3,200). Maybe it was playing at home for the first time since mid- December. Whatever IT was had the Florida Gator men’s basketball team (11-2, 1-0) in high gear as it dominated the Georgia Bulldogs (6-8, 0-1) from start to finish in a 77-44 rout on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs had no answer on both sides of the floor as the Gators shot 29 of 55 (52.7%) compared to Georgia’s 14 of 36 (38.9%). Making things even more shocking, two star players were limited in minutes due to injury. Both Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete sat on the bench to start the game. Murphy is still recovering from a broken rib sustained last Friday. Yeguete’s injury on the other hand was more of a mystery. Gator coach Billy Donovan claims Yeguete’s latest setback occurred after this past Sunday’s win over Yale.
Stepping up big in place of the two forwards was Casey Prather. The junior had concussion issues earlier this season, but got his first start since February of last year. The start made a huge difference, as Prather scored the first six points of the game on his way to 10 for the game. He also led the team in rebounds for the first time in his college career with seven. Donovan has shuffled through his lineup all season and had no problem pulling the trigger with Prather Wednesday night.
Prather may have been the spark early on, but the first half only saw a 28 to 15 lead. The team turned it up a notch or two in the second scoring 49 points. One area Donovan is happy about lately is ball movement. After dishing out 19 assists on Sunday, Florida came close to matching that same number on Wednesday with 17. Donvovan had his own idea of why the second half was so much faster than the first.
But the game wasn’t all about just Prather. Others contributed a well. Center Patric Young was near perfect. He went 5 of5 from the floor on the night with 11 points. All of his field goals were from close range as he hit quite a few finesse five foot hook shots. Also having a nice night was redshirt senior Mike Rosario. He shot 6 of10 from the floor including 3-6 from three point range and ended the night as the leading scorer with 19 big ones. Rosario has been off and on all season and the way he’s played lately has really impressed Donovan.
Rosario may have stood out on paper, but it was in garbage time with just a little over three minutes remaining where the real storyline began. It wasn’t until after coach Donovan yanked his starters and put in his bench that the real magic began. Walk-on sophomore Jacob Kurtz got his first taste of the limelight. Quickly after being put in with fellow low-minute teammates, he hit his first field goal of his career. A three-pointer that not only sent the remaining crowd in a frenzy, but got the traditional starters off the bench and jumping around. Moments later, Kurtz surprised everyone again, hitting his second field goal of career.
Florida will try yet again to get Kurtz some more last minute playing time as they travel to LSU on Saturday. That game can be heard on ESPN Radio 850/900 or on our sister station, Country 103.7 The Gator starting at 3:25pm. Tip-off is set for 4:00pm.