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Gators HC Todd Golden Updates Status of Starters Kyle Lofton, Will Richard

Gators head coach Todd Golden is hopeful for Kyle Lofton (back spasms) and Will Richard's (knee) availability on Sunday, listing each as day-to-day.

When Florida returned home from the PK85 in Portland, Ore., to take on FAMU, the Gators hit the hardwood without two key pieces due to injuries that arose in the preceding practice sessions.

Point guard Kyle Lofton and wing Will Richard were inactive on Wednesday as they dealt with respective injuries. Following the Gators' blowout victory over the Rattlers, head coach Todd Golden provided a brief update on each of the two starters.

"I wouldn't say there's concerns long-term," Golden said when asked about the severity of the injuries and the timeline for return on Wednesday. "Kyle, you know, his back tightened up after practice [on Tuesday]. It's kind of a strange deal. Unexpected, hadn't had any prior injuries that way. I think he'll be back sooner than later. But you know, backs and spasm deals, you know, it could be a couple days."

That initial prognosis quickly calmed any worries about a potential extended absence from the floor.

The point guard started at the one for Florida in each of its first seven games, assuming the role of floor general that he commanded at St. Bonaventure for the last four years. He was brought in to be a unit staple alongside Colin Castleton, bringing stability as a veteran piece on a patchworked team. He was deemed a non-negotiable starter by the staff alongside the big man during the preseason.

He's produced efficiently to begin the year, posting 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, living up to the steady billing he received as a transfer portal prospect.

Richard is in a similar boat as he worked in a high volume capacity in the first seven games of the year and was one of the most consistent producers on the offensive end during the stretch. 

He aligns as the team's second-leading scorer thus far, averaging 13.6 points per game while contributing 4.7 rebounds and just over one steal per contest as well.

According to Jacob Rudner of 247Sports, knee inflammation prior to the game caused Richard and the coaching staff to proceed with caution after a knee injury sidelined him for most of the preseason.

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"I think for him, we were more concerned about if he plays tonight that it would linger or get worse," he said after the win over FAMU. "And so, it was kind of a judgment call by me and by Will. I mean, probably could've gone, but I'm not sure how much he would have been able to help us. We thought it would make sense to just kind of let him rest and let that thing kind of cool off."

Golden also contemplated the idea that rushing Richard back into the lineup could have adverse effects in the long term due to the "tough games coming up on our schedule," electing to hold off in favor of the marquee matchups approaching.

A date in Exactech Arena against No. 8 UConn on Dec. 7 awaits.

On Friday, Golden echoed his previous sentiment regarding the duo's health as his optimism for a quick return remained.

"They're getting better, for sure," he said. "I'd say both are still day-to-day at this time. We hope to get him out to practice here today and or tomorrow prior to Sunday, but they've made progress, which is good, and hope to have them for Sunday.”

However, even if one or both of the starters are unable to go when Stetson visits Gainesville, Golden feels comfortable with the pieces around and behind them to carry the load in the meantime.

"That's the message with the guys that got the rip tonight. We didn't have two guys that had been consistent starters and we didn't miss a beat. That's something that I think speaks to [Trey Bonham], speaks to [Kowacie Reeves Jr.], speaks to Riley [Kugel], even [Myreon Jones], Niels [Lane], guys coming off the bench. I've talked about it with our team and with guys, I do think it's a really deep team. You know, we have a lot of talent."

On Wednesday, that talent produced at a high level at once for the first time to rebound from a poor loss to West Virginia. According to Golden, even after Richard and Lofton return to the lineup, clicking together as a unit simultaneously will be the foremost challenge for the rest of the 2022-23 season. 

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