Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

No. 7 Florida holds off Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Billy Donovan cautioned his Florida Gators before the game not to assume that Casey Prather would instantly return to form after a two-game layoff.

Prather scored 16 of his 21 in the first half in his comeback from a badly bruised right knee and helped No. 7 Florida survive a scare from Auburn in a 68-61 victory Saturday. Donovan's warning proved unnecessary.

"That rule went out the window after the first half, when he had 16," the coach said. "He was clearly going to play a lot more since he played so well.

"I'm not so sure if he's hurt again this game, that this is a game we could pull out."

Prather made 8 of 10 shots for UF (15-2, 4-0 SEC), which has won nine straight overall and eight in a row at Auburn (8-7, 0-4).

Donovan said Prather looked just okay in practice Thursday with no contact but fared better the day before the game.

"He was like, 'When you come back to practice, are you going to baby it or are you going to play?' " Prather said. "I said I was going to play."

Tahj Shamsid-Deen hit a jump shot with 1:59 left to cut Florida's lead to 62-61, but point guard Scottie Wilbekin answered with a fadeaway jumper.

"We didn't really have anything going on that possession," Wilbeken said. "My first drive, I didn't have anything, so I tried to give it to Casey Prather coming around behind me. His man denied him, so I had to make another move and I just made it."

Wilbekin, who scored 16, made 2 of 4 free throws over the final 48 seconds. Center Patric Young blocked KT Harrell's attempt to bring Auburn to within two between those trips to the line.

Kasey Hill made two late free throws for the final margin.

Young scored 13 for Florida, which outrebounded Auburn 31-23.

Chris Denson, the SEC's leading scorer, had 15 of his 21 points in the second half to help keep the Tigers close. Harrell added 18 points and made 4 of 7 3-pointers. Allen Payne finished with 11 points.

"They made the plays down the stretch, and we didn't," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said.

The Tigers have lost their first four conference games by a combined 23 points. They have dropped their past 14 against league teams overall.

The Gators, who squandered a 13-point lead in the first half, made 21 of 39 shots (53.8 percent).

Florida made 23 of 33 free throws while Auburn hit 14 of 22. The Tigers' point guards, Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada, both fouled out.

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