The Gators were already playing a man down in Baton Rouge, La.
Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario didn’t dress in No. 11 Florida’s 74-52 win against LSU on Saturday due to a sprained left ankle he suffered during Wednesday’s 77-44 win against Georgia in the O’Connell Center.
But with less than two minutes left in the first half, the Gators lost another player.
After Kenny Boynton missed a three with 1:46 left in the half, Casey Prather jumped up to grab the offensive rebound, landed and barely beat the shot clock with his layup to put Florida up 25-20.
Prather then hobbled down the court and hunched over to grab his left ankle when he got there.
Prather struggled to get to the sideline during the timeout, until he was assisted to the bench by Florida’s trainers. After playing only 13 minutes, Prather was out with a high left ankle sprain.
“I just told those guys at halftime that Casey’s not coming back in,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re basically down to six guys right now.”
With the midgame blow to their frontcourt, the Gators needed someone to step up.
Will Yeguete answered the call.
Florida turned around a slow offensive start to record its third road win and first away from home in SEC play thanks to Yeguete’s game-high 13 rebounds.
“I thought we won the game based on our defense,” Donovan said.
“I thought our defense, our ability to defend the three-point line and then our ability to rebound the ball were keys in the game for us.”
Despite shooting 0 of 2 in the first half, Yeguete led the team defensively by grabbing six boards. He stepped up his performance during the second half in Prathers’ absence.
The junior finished the game with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in his 25 minutes on the floor, all while nursing tendinitis in his right knee.
Still, Yeguete’s 13 boards helped Florida outrebound LSU 53-34.
“It’s so hard to find players that are really interested in doing all the dirty work, things that don’t necessarily show up in a stat sheet, and you don’t get a lot of attention for them,” Donovan said.
“He’s a great defender. He’s a really good pick-and-roll defender. He’s really, really good at rebounding the basketball. He’s a great high-deflection guy. I tell him all the time how much … I appreciate a guy like him, because the last thing I want him to feel is unappreciated.”
Boynton also came through big for the Gators in the second half. After going 2 for 6 in the first half, Boynton finished the game with 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Although Donovan credited Florida’s defense with the win, Boynton still felt the Gators struggled in handling press defense.
“We know as a team that we got to get better at that,” Boynton said. “That’s a concern definitely regardless of if we got the win or not. I think we’ve got to do a better job of spacing the floor.”
Television and radio broadcasts contributed to this report.
Contact Katie Agostin at [email protected].