GAINESVILLE — Florida's Casey Prather found out Wednesday morning he would make his first start of the season in the SEC opener against Georgia.
The junior forward proceeded to open the game Wednesday night like a guy who has been there all the time.
Prather scored the No. 11 Gators' first six points and set the tone for a 77-44 victory in front of 11,366 at the O'Connell Center. It tied for the second-largest margin of victory over Georgia (matching the 33 on March 4, 1967, and fewer than only the 38 on Dec. 30, 1958) and was the fewest points the Bulldogs scored in the series since a 50-38 loss on March 2, 2005.
"I was just thinking about defense," said Prather who scored 10 points and added seven rebounds. "I just wanted to be aggressive, flying around, see what I can do. And the points just happened to fall in my hands. It's a great feeling."
The results came quickly for Florida (11-2). It took an 11-0 lead by making five of seven shots over the first 4:11. In that same span, the Bulldogs (6-8) shot 0-for-2 while committing four turnovers. They didn't score until 5:37 in.
Florida led 28-15 at halftime, holding Georgia to 5-of-14 shooting from the field.
"Florida just overwhelmed us," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "We started out in a hole, and the environment overwhelmed a couple of our kids and so did Florida's defense. I have to give Florida credit. They are a terrific team. I'm disappointed in how we played."
Gators senior guard Mike Rosario led all scorers with 19 points, and junior center Patric Young added 11 and three rebounds.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said one of his few disappointments was not getting the ball inside to Young more early in the game. Donovan said Georgia's zone defense hampered the effort.
Freshman guard Michael Frazier of Tampa scored six points — two 3-pointers — off the bench.
"Coach told us the preseason games, our nonconference schedule, that was just to prepare us for what's coming up now," Rosario said. "Coach stresses more than anything to us now we're playing for an SEC championship. So that's what we're really focusing on as a team and trying to be a consistent ball team every day."
The Gators won despite dealing with injury problems. Senior forward Erik Murphy, for whom Prather started, has a broken left rib. He entered 2:19 into the game and scored 11 points in 18 minutes. Junior forward Will Yeguete was on the bench early icing his knee, which is hampered by tendinitis. He played 14 minutes, scoring no points.
"Murphy and Yeguete are cleared to play," Donovan said, adding it's a matter of pain tolerance for both. "Both of these are tough guys."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.