Prather continues to impress

At least once a game, Casey Prather reminds the crowd of what he can be. The junior forward is starting to harness and show that athleticism more consistently. It used to flash every once in a while during practice or in the few minutes Prather was able to play, but now healthy and understanding his role off the bench, he is giving the Gators what they need — energy and athleticism.

"He's doing a great job getting to the basket and finishing well," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "He's rebounding. He's just playing and not thinking about it. He's attacking the rim more instead of settling for jump shots.

"If he can keep providing that energy for us, we'll be hard to beat."

It looked like it on Saturday. In a game where the Gators lacked energy on both ends of the floor, it was Casey Prather that provided it. He took charges, he played smart on offense and he attacked the glass on the way to 10 points and nine rebounds.

With Will Yeguete out, that's what Florida needed from Prather. As Yeguete made his return to the court on Saturday, it didn't stop Prather from continuing to change the game. Yeguete played just 11 minutes and was held scoreless while grabbing just one rebound, so Prather's energy will continue to be needed until Yeguete is back at full strength.

Even when that happens, Prather's athleticism will still help the Gators in the postseason.

"He has always been great," Florida forward Erik Murphy said. "Honestly, he's so athletic and talent that he's always been able to do it. He just got his opportunity. He's always banged up, but when he comes in, he plays with confidence. He's great for us, even when he's banged up. He plays through all these injuries."

It's Prather's athleticism that usually steals the show, and it did again on Saturday. With the floor offense struggling and Alabama holding a six-point lead midway through the second half, Kenny Boynton led a fastbreak and dropped off a no-look pass to Prather, who was flying toward the basket.

On the play before that, Arkansas bit to cover a driving Prather, but he saw Patric Young flying to the rim with no one in front of him. A lob to the rim went for the only dunk of the game and started a Florida run that secured the win.

"I was just trying to get into the lane, and I saw my big man rolling," Prather said. "Their big man was staying with me and hesitating, so I just threw it up to the rim and let him go get it."

The game changed on those plays, as the momentum was soon on the Florida bench. They came just minutes after Mike Rosario exited the game and Prather took his place. The Gators went with a bigger lineup of Prather at the small forward position, and that's what led Florida on a 27-7 run over the final 12 minutes.

"He was the only guy that had a level of energy," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "Our team picked it up with about eight minutes to go, but in terms of the first half and second half, he had good energy.

"For whatever reason, he was locked in and focused."

Prather admitted that Yeguete having arthroscopic knee surgery in early February aided his resurgence. It forced Prather to be on the floor more. The Gators didn't have a choice but to get production from him. With the extra minutes, Prather his matured in one key way.

"Decision making," he said. "I know what to do and I'm doing my job. I'm doing my job more effectively. I'm happy with what I do and happy about my role."

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