GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida's conference schedule is starting out like its nonconference slate did: with the team short-handed.
The 11th-ranked Gators likely will be without forward Erik Murphy for Wednesday's game against Georgia, maybe longer.
Murphy, the team's second-leading scorer, has a fractured rib that kept him out of Sunday's win at Yale and prevented him from practicing Monday.
"Any time he raises his arms up or reaches his arms up, there's a significant amount of pain," coach Billy Donovan said.
Donovan called Murphy doubtful to play when the Gators (10-2) open Southeastern Conference play against the Bulldogs (6-7). The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds this season. He's shooting 57.3 percent from the field and a team-best 45.2 percent (19 of 42) from 3-point range.
Murphy got hit in the side during practice Friday, causing more damage to an injury he first suffered against Air Force on Dec. 29. X-rays on Monday revealed the extent of the injury, but the results meant little to Murphy's playing status. Donovan said Murphy's pain tolerance is the key to him getting back on the court.
"He's cleared to play right now. He can play," Donovan said. "It's about how much pain he can tolerate. ... His breathing is a problem. His sleeping is a problem right now. If they're broken, I think we obviously know it's going to be a lot longer process for him to get back. If they're not broken, we probably have a better understanding of how long it's going to take. But in terms of treating him, this injury is always going to be break or bruise. It's always up to him and how he feels.
"Erik's a tough kid. ... I had broken two in college, and it was probably a good four to six weeks before I was actually pain free. So bruised, it can be a week to 10 days. So that's all we're trying to find out with him right now. Him playing Wednesday has nothing to do with the diagnosis that they're broken or if they're bruised. It has nothing to do with being able to play. It's all on him."
Without Murphy, the Gators are likely to keep Will Yeguete in the starting lineup. Yeguete started the first nine games before Donovan moved him to the bench in favor of a three-guard lineup. He started against Yale and finished with a season-high 14 points and nine rebounds.
Murphy's injury is the latest setback for the Gators.
Florida opened the season without point guard Scottie Wilbekin (suspension) and backup forward Casey Prather (concussion). Reserve forward Cody Larson also left the team a few days before the season opener. Murphy missed some time with a hip pointer, and Wilbekin has played through a broken finger on his right hand.
Despite all the issues, the Gators have fared fairly well through the most challenging non-conference schedule in Donovan's 17 years in Gainesville.
"I think the one thing for me is just through all these experiences we're going through, where can we get better?" Donovan said. "Where can we improve? And I think it's really on both sides. I think we can get better defensively. I think we can get better offensively. ... What happens when you play a schedule like we've played up to this point, some of those things you don't do well will get really exposed (but) you can have a chance to really work on them."
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