GAINESVILLE — Now comes the hard part.
The Florida basketball team is 4-0 in SEC play, having outscored those opponents 302-195. The Gators are ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 51.7 points per game. And on Monday, Florida rose to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
But as the Gators prepare to play twice on the road this week — at Georgia and Mississippi State — the emphasis is on staying the course and properly handling the growing prosperity.
"The biggest thing in all this stuff, I always use this word, the 'makeup' of an individual player, the makeup of your individuals on your team have a lot to do with how your team performs, plays and prepares," coach Billy Donovan said. "If you have players inside your team that can't handle success, can't handle failure, can't handle adversity, can't handle setbacks, can't handle when things don't go their way, you have a very, very fragile team. … So this team … has done a good job of moving from one challenge to the next, and has prepared from one challenge to the next correctly. They've gone out there and played that way. But we can't embrace that and think, 'We've got this all figured out.' "
Florida opened the SEC season on Jan. 9 with a 77-44 victory over Georgia, but the Gators know well they can't take anything for granted in this second meeting. Florida was favored when it traveled to Athens last season but lost 76-62.
"That's a big thing, remembering what happened last year," senior F Erik Murphy said. "I think that will help us keep our focus at practice the next couple days. Similar situation to last year. We beat 'em at home and they got us there. We're trying to prepare and not let it happen again."
PRATHER'S PROGrESS: Florida junior F Casey Prather will miss at least another week as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain he sustained in the Jan. 12 game at LSU. Prather was in a boot all of last week, which was removed Sunday as he began rehab. It has been an injury-plagued year for Prather, who has missed a total of seven games and also sustained a concussion at the beginning of the season. Donovan said the goal is making sure he's completely healthy.
"The major concern with the injury right now is bringing him back too soon and having to deal with lingering pain and discomfort, and him being hobbled by this the rest of the year," Donovan said. "So our feeling is since we've come this far, let's try to get him fully healthy. My guess would be right now that this week he'll do rehab, he will not practice at all. And I think he'll probably get reevaluated in another six days or so and see if he can start to practice and see how he feels in that before he plays in the game."
DID YOU KNOW?: Two former Gators will be on NFL rosters for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, DT Ray McDonald and WR Deonte Thompson. McDonald started Sunday's NFC Championship Game for the 49ers, and Thompson was not active for the Ravens' AFC title game.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]