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Florida holds off North Florida, 77-69

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida coach Billy Donovan warned anyone who would listen in the preseason.

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Now he has some proof.

Casey Prather scored a career-high 28 points, Michael Frazier II added 19 and No. 10 Florida held on the beat North Florida 77-69 in the season opener Friday.

The short-handed Gators won their 23rd consecutive opener - a much-needed tuneup before playing at 20th-ranked Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

But even before the schedule toughens, Donovan has a pretty clear indication about his team.

''We are light years away from even being a remotely good defensive team right now and light years away from even being a ranked team,'' Donovan said.

Florida let North Florida, a team ranked No. 233 in the preseason Sagarin Ratings, hang around most of the afternoon.

The Osprey, who hit nine of their final 15 3-pointers, made it a seven-point game with 19.2 seconds remaining. But the Gators closed it out from the free-throw line, where Florida finished 27 of 32.

Prather was the key contributor from start to finish. The senior swingman hit 10 of 15 shots and made 8 of 11 free throws. His previous career high was 14. He had 23 last week in an exhibition game against Florida Southern.

''It's my last year, so I'm just trying to be as aggressive as I can,'' Prather said.

Highly touted freshman Kasey Hill had 15 points and four assists in his college debut. No other Florida player reached double digits.

Donovan had little positive to say afterward, ripping into his team's presence on both ends of the floor.

''Their basketball IQ and understanding of where to be, when to be, what's going on, how to rotate, it's just at a totally different level to what we're doing,'' Donovan said. ''That's the frustrating part to me. I can't seem to get through to some of these guys.''

North Florida kept it close much of the day. Although the Ospreys trailed 35-18 early - mostly because Florida made its first 17 free throws - they closed the first half with an 11-0 run to make it 37-31.

''When then went 17 of 17 from the line to start the game, and they're bad free-throw shooters, you're thinking you're going to be OK,'' UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said. ''I'm really proud of our guys. The ability to sustain a couple punches, and like a boxing match, we kept getting up off the canvas.''

Florida opened things up in the second half, but Chris Davenport's 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining cut a double-digit lead to 66-58. Dallas Moore's 3-pointer made it 74-67 with 19.2 seconds to play, but Frazier and Hill made the majority of their free throws down the stretch to help Florida hold on.

Beau Beech led North Florida with 16 points, and Travis Wallace had 15.

The Gators played two walk-ons because of suspensions and injuries.

Center Damontre Harris, forward Dorian Finney-Smith and point guard Scottie Wilbekin sat out the opener. Although they have been allowed to practice with the team, Donovan has given no timetable for their return. He confirmed after the game that they will be out again against the Badgers.

Making Florida even thinner, Frazier was uncertain to even play while recovering from mononucleosis and two more players were slowed by injuries. Frazier ended up playing 24 minutes. Donovan was more cautious with Will Yeguete (knee surgery) and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter (broken leg).

Without them, Florida was limited offensively.

The Gators were 2 of 10 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 37-35. They also turned the ball over 13 times against just 11 assists.

Senior center Patric Young was mostly a non-factor. He had two points on 0-for-2 shooting.

Yeguete and Carter weren't much better. Yeguete missed all four of his shots and finished with two points. Carter's lone score was a 3-pointer from the corner. He missed his other five shots.

''Offensively, we're going to be OK. We'll get a little bit better in terms of shot selection,'' Donovan said. ''My concern right now is on the defensive end of the floor. That's really a major concern I have right now. We gave up 38 points in the second half. No disrespect to North Florida, but we're going to play against higher-level people come Tuesday.

''We've got a long, long, long way to go - a long way to go. What's going on right now is not sinking in to these guys.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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