Adversity for a basketball team can come in all forms, maybe a stretch of minutes where the ball won’t go in the net or a difficult environment when you’re on the road. It can be the officials making calls you don’t feel are going your way or some nights your opponent just can’t miss. Adversity doesn’t usually come by way of mechanical failure with your chartered plane, but that’s exactly what happened to the Florida Gators when they attempted to leave Tuscaloosa, AL. Thursday night after gutting out a 68-62 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
It’s not the first time the Gators have dealt with strange aviation. Had this been a Tuesday or Wednesday regular season game for them, it probably wouldn’t be anything to note, but Florida’s mid-Friday return to Gainesville comes little more than 24 hours in advance of their next game Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers. Senior forward Casey Prather says he wasn’t bothered staying an extra night in the Yellowhammer State, he enjoys sleeping in hotels because they have nice beds. He also stressed the importance of staying focused and maximizing the short time between games.
“Be mentally ready,” Prather said. “Just know that we have a lot to do. We have a quick turnaround so we have to try to take advantage of the time in scout and get ready for the game.”
The senior has scored in double figures in every game he’s played this season and his 17.1 points per game are almost triple his earlier career high average (6.2). He leads his team in scoring and Saturday against Tennessee he will matchup against one of the eight players in the SEC who averages more points than he does: senior guard Jordan McRae (19.2 points per game).
“[McRae’s] a good player,” Prather said. “He provides great scoring for his team. He has tremendous length. He can shoot the ball. He can get in the lane and create for himself and for his teammates. We’re going to have to do a good job on him.”
Last season they didn’t do a good job stopping McRae. The talented scorer dropped 27 points against the Gators, his third highest total that season. McRae also scored the most points of any Florida opponent in the entire 2012-2013 season the evening his Volunteers beat Florida 64-58. The game was another in a long string of Florida’s frustrations against Tennessee. Under head coach Billy Donovan the Gators are just 16-18 against them, and Donovan is yet to beat current Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin (0-3). Prather doesn’t recall much from that late February defeat last season but he does remember one important thing.
“I just know we lost,” Prather said. “That’s all I remember.”
He’s also got an idea of how Florida can reverse its fortunes against Tennessee this time around.
“I just know we’ve got to do a great job going into this game of scouting and preparation,” Prather said. “Just all do your jobs.”