Florida reinstates suspended forward Finney-Smith
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Billy Donovan will have his best player on the floor for his third attempt at win No. 500.
Donovan, however, could be without leading scorer Michael Frazier II and fellow guard Eli Carter against Tennessee on Saturday.
Donovan reinstated Dorian Finney-Smith on Friday after the junior forward missed three games for an unspecified violation of team rules.
''He served his penalty,'' Donovan said. ''He did all the things we asked him to do and expected him to do.''
Finney-Smith missed nearly a week of practice following his suspension, but Donovan said it's ''over and done with.'' Donovan added that Finney-Smith has a chance to return to the starting lineup.
''The fair thing to do is to move forward and give him an opportunity to play and help us as much as he can,'' Donovan said.
Finney-Smith is the team's second-leading scorer (12.9) and leading rebounding (5.8). He also ranks second on the team with 37 3-pointers.
The Gators (13-15, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) went 1-2 without Finney-Smith, who was voted the league's sixth man of the year last season.
His return should give Donovan a better chance at reaching the career milestone, which he failed to do at LSU and Missouri the last two games. Donovan is trying to become the second coach in Division I history to get 500 wins before his 50th birthday. Hall of Famer Bob Knight is only other to accomplish the feat.
But it's no slam dunk to happen this season. The Gators have lost six of seven, a stretch that left them needing to win the SEC tournament to make to the NCAA field. They close out the regular season against the Volunteers (14-13, 6-9), at home against Texas A&M and then at top-ranked Kentucky.
Frazier's absence has been a significant setback.
The junior guard and team's leading scorer has missed the last five games with a high-ankle sprain and wasn't expected to do much in practice Friday.
''He's actually shooting the ball and he's running OK, but the bigger issue is him stopping and starting,'' Donovan said. ''He still has some significant pain. I don't feel great that that's going to go away between now and Saturday. I think for him, he wants to try it just to see where he's at.''
Carter is the latest addition to Florida's injury list.
He missed practice Thursday with strep throat, the second time he's dealt with the viral infection this season. Carter missed nearly 10 days and dropped 13 pounds the last time he had strep throat.
''They've got him on medication right now,'' Donovan said. ''We'll see how he's feeling and what we can get out of him, if anything.''
Finney-Smith, meanwhile, has been Florida's most consistent player. He's scored double figures in 16 of his last 18 games, and was coming off his first double-double of the season before the suspension.
He was the fourth Florida player suspended this season, joining Chris Walker, Jon Horford and walk-on Zach Hodskins.
Teammate Chris Chiozza welcomed Finney-Smith back.
''It means a lot,'' Chiozza said. ''He helps us out on both ends of the court, especially with his leadership and his ability to make plays and get defensive stops. I didn't lose any trust in him. I don't think anybody did. If they did, it was very little trust they lost.
''Everybody makes mistakes. We're just going to forgive him and we know he's going to go out there and give it his all. He's going to do the right things from here on out.''