Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Florida senior Casey Prather had a career-high 28 points with eight rebounds and the No. 10 Gators outlasted upset-minded North Florida 77-69 on Friday afternoon.
Michael Frazier II added a career-high 19 points for Florida (1-0) in its season opener.
North Florida (0-1) sophomore guard Beau Beech was 5-of-8 from 3-point range and finished with a team-high 16 points in defeat.
Florida opened up the game on a 20-6 run fueled by Prather's 10 points on 3- of-4 shooting and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line.
Florida attacked the basket throughout the first half, forcing the Ospreys to defend and ultimately getting them into foul trouble.
The Gators were in the double-bonus with 9:33 remaining in the first half, making their first 17 free-throw attempts of the season before Prather missed back-to-back attempts with under four minutes left.
Down 37-20, North Florida went on an 11-0 run with Beech hitting two straight 3-pointers and pulled within 37-31 at halftime.
Florida was outrebounded 22-17 in the first half but forced 12 turnovers. The Gators also started the game unusually cold from deep, going 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
North Florida cut the lead to five at 39-34 with 17:55 remaining -- its smallest deficit since 10-5.
But Florida used a 19-5 run to take a 58-39 lead. Rutgers transfer Eli Carter hit Florida's first 3-pointer of the game with under 12 minutes left and Frazier added a trey to cap the run
Down 16 with 6:08 on the clock, Beech hit an off-balanced 3-pointer, was fouled by Prather, and hit the free throw to complete the four-point play.
After a Florida miss, Jalen Nesbitt hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to nine, 64-55 with 5:29 remaining.
Florida's Kasey Hill, who finished with 15 points and a team-high four assists, made a layup to push the lead back to double digits, but after a couple of scoreless possessions from each team, Chris Davenport hit a deep 3- pointer from the wing to get the Ospreys within eight.
"The one thing I've been saying about this team is it's filled with guys that like to compete, and they showed that today," UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll said. "I was really proud of our ability and determination to keep coming back every time Florida tried to pull away."
The lead remained eight but the teams traded baskets for free throws in the closing minute and coach Billy Donovan won in his 18th season-opener in a row at Florida.
"I was really disappointed in our team tonight," Donovan admitted. "That's about as disappointed as I've been."
Prather's career-high with Florida had been 14 ... The eight-point deficit was the slimmest final margin in the series ... Florida shot 2-for-10 from 3- point range compared to 9-of-24 for North Florida ... North Florida outrebounded the Gators 37-35 ... Florida plays at No. 20 Wisconsin next Tuesday.