When #7 Florida faces Auburn this afternoon in the Auburn Arena, Gator fans will see a familiar but recently absent face.
Senior and leading scorer Casey Prather, who sustained a bone bruise in his right knee during the win over South Carolina ten days ago, has been cleared to play, but in a limited role. He participated in contact drills during Friday’s practice but is not ready to start in a game just yet and will come off the bench today for Florida (14-2, 3-0 SEC). He is not expected to see significant playing time.
The Gators have seemed to manage just fine without Prather in the two games that he’s missed. Redshirt sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith stepped up as a replacement for Prather in Florida’s overtime 84-82 win at Arkansas, scoring a team- and career-high 22 points. On Tuesday, they rolled over Georgia 72-50 en route to a 3-0 SEC record and new 25-game win streak at the O’Dome.
Setting the past few weeks’ events aside, the basketball history between Florida and Auburn (8-6, 0-3 SEC) is interesting to look at. The Gators have not been good all-time against the Tigers, trailing 73-87 in the series as a whole, or in Auburn, with a record of 24-55. However, Florida has been much more successful under Billy Donovan. They are 18-4 against Auburn and 7-2 in Auburn with Donovan as head coach and have won the last five meetings.
Despite their winless SEC record, the Tigers are sure to be no slouch today. In games at Ole Miss and versus then-#21 Missouri, Auburn lost by a combined five points (then lost by 11 at Tennessee). Also, two of their players, senior guard Chris Denson (19.4) and junior guard KT Harrell (19.0) average more points than Gator leader Prather (17.0). Florida will have to watch out for the duo, especially with the loss of Prather’s offensive production.
Florida’s probable starters include senior forward Will Yeguete, senior center Patric Young, freshman guard Kasey Hill, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Auburn will likely start Denson, Harrell, senior forward Allen Payne, senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and freshman guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. Catch the game on the radio through Country 103.7 The Gator or streaming through WatchESPN.