Florida vs. Auburn, Game Thread: Casey Prather to return on road

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Casey Prather is back, but Florida should be able to beat Auburn on the road no matter what he gives the Gators.

The big news for Florida today is that Casey Prather, held out of the Gators' last two games with a bone bruise, will be available for the Gators' road trip to Auburn (4 p.m., SEC TV affiliates or ESPN3). The Gators want to avoid making bigger news by falling to the Tigers.

Auburn's not a very good team: The Tigers are 8-6 on the year and 0-3 against the SEC, and their best win came at home against Clemson by two points. Chris Denson (19.4 points per game) and K.T. Harrell (19.0 PPG) each pour in buckets out of Auburn's backcourt, but that's really about it on offense for the other orange and blue team in the SEC, as Tahj Shamsid-Deen is the only other starter averaging more than seven points per game.

And while Denson's the better scorer of the two very good Auburn guards, and one of the highest-usage players in the country, he's also more of a slasher — catnip for Scottie Wilbekin, potentially — and a poor foul shooter (just 60.9 percent from the line), a very bad thing considering how often he heads to the stripe (fifth nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes). Florida should really be more worried about Harrell, who makes 41.0 percent of his threes, especially given the Gators' poor three-point defense.

But Florida is getting a rare treat this afternoon in the form of Auburn's three-point defense, which is 320th nationally, thanks to opponents making 38.0 percent of their threes. Auburn's allowing 39.5 percent on threes in SEC play, but that number's over just three games — and Florida's actually next to last in the conference in that statistic, allowing opponents to make 41.9 percent of their threes.

If Florida can keep the Tigers — and specifically Harrell, who's taken almost as many threes as Auburn's next two most-used snipers combined — from getting hot from deep, there should be little Auburn can do to stop the Gators elsewhere. Prather's return only boosts a team that has made 58 percent of its twos in SEC play, best in the league, and despite the presence of seven-footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, Florida should clean up on the glass against the Tigers, who rarely have more than one player taller than 6'8" on the floor.

And Prather, in particular, could be a nightmare for Auburn, if he's near full health. The Tigers simply don't have a wing tall and athletic enough to keep up with him, though Allen Payne (6'6", 225) will give it a try.

If Florida wins, it will have a 4-0 start in conference play for the second straight year, but just the second time since 2006-07. And if Florida wins and Texas A&M falters on the road at Mississippi State (in a game still in overtime), the Gators will be alone in first place in the SEC on Sunday.

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