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Friday, April 12, 2024
<p>Junior forward Will Yeguete (15) plays defense during Florida’s 83-52 victory against Missouri on Saturday in the O’Connell Center. Yeguete will miss 4-6 weeks with bone chips in his right knee.</p>

Junior forward Will Yeguete (15) plays defense during Florida’s 83-52 victory against Missouri on Saturday in the O’Connell Center. Yeguete will miss 4-6 weeks with bone chips in his right knee.

Halftime felt different for the Gators on Wednesday night in Athens, Ga.

Southeastern Conference cellar dweller Georgia led No. 8 Florida 27-24 at the break. For only the second time this season, UF trailed after the first 20 minutes of play.

“I knew Georgia was going to come out (aggressive),” coach Billy Donovan said. “I told our guys, ‘How would you feel if you went on somebody’s court and lost by 25-30 points? You’d want to really come out and be aggressive.’ We knew they were going to do that.”

The Bulldogs’ aggressive play caught Erik Murphy and Patric Young off-guard.

Slowed by foul trouble, the Gators’ two premier post players logged just 20 combined minutes of playing time — 4:51 together — during the first half.

Young recorded his first foul 57 seconds into the game. After subbing in with 5:17 left before halftime, he recorded his second foul at the 5:01 mark.

Murphy had similar trouble with quick fouls, recording his first 44 seconds after entering the game with 14:06 remaining and his second just 48 seconds after subbing in with 10:44 to go.

“We definitely battled [foul trouble] … with Patric and Erik being out,” Donovan said. “It really didn’t give us much of a post presence for about the last eight minutes of the first half.”

Compounding the problem was each post player’s paltry statistical output. The duo shot 0 of 3 from the field during the first half and recorded three turnovers against one rebound.

The lack of production from Murphy and Young contributed to Florida’s second worst first-half offensive output of the season.

“When those two guys are off the floor, it’s going to hurt any team,” Donovan said.

Will Yeguete picked up the slack in the post. Despite battling tendinitis in his right knee, he scored five points, recorded three steals and grabbed five of his game-high 11 rebounds during the first half.

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Donovan said Thursday that the injury has been a season-long issue for Yeguete.

“It’s tough, because I feel like I’m not 100 percent,” Yeguete said of playing through the injury. “I can’t jump as fast or as high as I want to, but I just have to give my best whenever I step on the court.”

While Yeguete’s injury still lingers, the junior forward’s play as of late has encouraged Donovan.

“I’m sure that his knee [has], in some way, slowed him a little bit,” Donovan said. “But I think now, he’s doing the things at an intensity level, an effort level I’m accustomed to seeing him do things at.”

Yeguete’s performance proved critical for a Florida team battling multiple injuries. Murphy and Young’s foul trouble magnified the absence of Casey Prather from the Gators’ lineup. Prather has missed three games since suffering a high left ankle sprain during Florida’s 74-52 win against LSU on Jan. 12 in Baton Rouge, La. Prather will remain sidelined until his ankle undergoes a reevaluation prior to UF’s contest against Ole Miss on Feb. 2.

“We’re not a very deep team because of some injuries and Prather being out,” Donovan said.

“If Casey’s there, even with [Murphy and Young] out, at least you have another experienced guy to fill in. We didn’t have that.”

Until their health improves, Gators like Yeguete and Murphy (fractured rib) will continue battling through injuries. But even with an injury-plagued roster, Donovan likes Florida’s chances.

“We haven’t played very many games this year at all with our full team, and that’s been somewhat challenging,” Donovan said. “They have done a pretty good job to this point.”

Contact Joe Morgan at joemorgan@alligator.org.


Junior forward Will Yeguete (15) plays defense during Florida’s 83-52 victory against Missouri on Saturday in the O’Connell Center. Yeguete will miss 4-6 weeks with bone chips in his right knee.

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