Just when it seemed that No. 10 Florida was getting to full strength, point guard Scottie Wilbekin went down in the second half of their win over South Carolina on Wednesday night with a sprained right ankle. Wilbekin, who missed the first five games of the season due to a suspension, accounted for 17 points and three assists before going down in the second half of the 74-58 victory.
Wilbekin injured the ankle in Florida’s one-point loss at UConn on December 2, and since that game the Gators have won six games in a row.
And according to Chris Harry of Gatorzone.com Wilbekin isn’t the only player dealing with a health issue, as senior forward Casey Prather was held out of practice after waking up with swelling in his right knee. According to the report Prather will undergo tests on the knee Thursday evening, and both players are questionable for Florida’s game at Arkansas on Saturday.
Both players are key contributors for the Gators, with Prather being one of the best players in the SEC to this point in the season. After averaging just 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a junior Prather’s up to 17.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest in 2013-14. He’s also leading the SEC in field goal percentage (62.4%), and Prather has surpassed the 20-point mark four times this season.
Obviously these would be big personnel losses if Prather and Wilbekin are unable to go on Saturday afternoon, especially when considering how tough Arkansas can be in Fayetteville.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)