GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Casey Prather scored a career-high 28 points, Michael Frazier II added 19 and No. 10 Florida opened the season with a 77-69 victory over North Florida on Friday.
The short-handed Gators won their 23rd consecutive opener — a much-needed tuneup before playing at 20th-ranked Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
Florida let North Florida hang around most of the afternoon, backing up coach Billy Donovan's assertion that there's no way his team should be ranked 10th.
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. Florida finished 27 of 32 from the line.
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.
Highly touted freshman Kasey Hill had 15 points and four assists in his college debut. No other Florida player reached double digits.
Beau Beech led North Florida with 16 points, and Travis Wallace had 15.
North Florida kept it close much of the day. Although the Ospreys trailed 35-18 early, they closed the first half with an 11-0 run to make it 37-31.
Florida opened things up in the second half, but Chris Davenport's 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining made it 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.
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.
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 significant 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.