Georgia has Gators’ undivided attention

Nobody will be taking Georgia (8-6, 2-0 SEC) for granted Tuesday night. The Bulldogs slogged through their non-conference schedule with a 6-6 record that didn’t impress anyone, but they got everybody’s attention last Wednesday evening when they knocked off then 21st-ranked Missouri in Columbia, ending the Tigers’ 26-game home winning streak in their Southeastern Conference opener.

“I think our guys understand how good Georgia is, how well they are playing and what a challenge it will be tomorrow night for us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said at his Monday morning press conference.

Donovan’s 7th-ranked Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) are well aware that Georgia will come into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (7 p.m., ESPNU) looking to pull off a daily double by scoring a win over the SEC’s only top ten team and putting an end to another long home court winning streak. The Gators tied the school record with their 24th-straight home court win against South Carolina last Tuesday and could set a new standard with a win over Georgia.

While Donovan knows the Gators will play with plenty of confidence in front of the home crowd, he also knows that Georgia isn’t about to be intimidated by a road game. Missouri is one of the nation’s most challenging venues so the Bulldogs’ win last week was most impressive.

“You just can’t have this feeling that you’re at home,” Donovan said. “That doesn’t mean anything, especially against a team like Georgia that got confidence from the fact they went to maybe one of the more difficult places to play in Missouri and got the job done in overtime.”

These are the same Bulldogs who struggled to beat Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina earlier in the season. Their non-conference schedule was so weak that the Bulldogs have a 178 RPI and a strength of schedule that is barely top 200 (191).

Donovan isn’t taking anything for granted. The Bulldogs have some size up front – 6-9, 6-8 and 6-7 across the front line – and an emerging set of guards in point 6-5 Charles Mann (14.1 points per game) and 6-3 Kenny Gaines (12.2). All five of the Bulldogs’ starters were in the starting lineup at one point last season and now they are developing into a solid unit.

“Now those guys are a year older and stepping into a bigger role for themselves,” Donovan said.

DONOVAN SAYS PRATHER IS OUT

Donovan says the Gators will be without leading scorer Casey Prather (17.0) for the second straight game. Prather missed Florida’s 84-82 overtime win over Arkansas with a swollen knee, a game that saw Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young sitting on the bench at the opening tip, both of them nursing injuries. Wilbekin sprained his ankle last week against South Carolina while Young is battling through some tendonitis in his knees.

Neither Wilbekin nor Young is 100% but both are scheduled to start tonight.

“Patric practiced yesterday (Sunday),” Donovan said. “Those guys are full go. Today in practice they should be out there. I’m sure Scottie is dealing with some soreness and stiffness in his ankle. He should be able to play tomorrow.”

As for Prather, Donovan said, “When he’ll be available to play, I don’t know but he’s out tomorrow.”

In Prather’s place, Dorian Finney-Smith will be in the starting lineup for a second straight game. In helping the Gators put an end to Arkansas’ 24-game home winning streak last Saturday, Finney-Smith had career highs in points (22) and rebounds (15).

GAME NOTES:  Donovan is 25-10 all-time against Georgia and has won the last two against the Bulldogs … This is Florida’s only game against Georgia this season, the first time that’s happened since  since 1943-44 … Michael Frazier leads the SEC in 3-point shooting with 39-81 for 48.1%, which ranks sixth nationally … Georgia comes into the game with a -1.8 turnover margin, which is 12th in the league. Florida ranks fourth in the league at +2.4 … Georgia ranks next to last in the SEC in free throw percentage at 64.8%. Florida improved to 68.8% from the line with a 25-34 effort against Arkansas. Scottie Wilbekin went 8-10 against the Razorbacks but he’s only 66.7% for the year.

 

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

GEORGIA (8-6, 2-0 SEC):Marcus Thornton (6-8, 235, RJR); Donte’ Williams (6-9, 225, SR); Brandon Morris (6-7, 215, SO); Charles Mann (6-5, 210, SO); Kenny Gaines (6-3, 195, SO)

FLORIDA (13-2, 2-0 SEC): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 214, RJR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176, SR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199, SO)

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.