Murphy, Gators cruise past Northwestern State

Murphy, Gators cruise past Northwestern State

Associated Press photo by David J. PhillipNorthwestern State's DeQuan Hicks and Florida's Casey Prather vie for a loose ball during Friday's game in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press photo by David J. PhillipNorthwestern State's DeQuan Hicks and Florida's Casey Prather vie for a loose ball during Friday's game in Austin, Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas — Like the steady pressure of a grinding wheel, Erik Murphy was abrasive and efficient in smashing the hopes of No. 14-seeded Northwestern State as he led No. 3-seeded Florida to a 79-47 victory Friday night in the NCAA men’s tournament at the Frank Erwin Center.

The loss eliminated Northwestern State (23-9) from the tournament. Southeastern Conference champion Florida (27-7) advances to the third round.

The Demons had no answer for Murphy, a 6-foot-10 forward who was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection this year, and the inside play of center Patric Young.

Murphy finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting 8-of-11 shooting in 28 minutes.

“The ball went inside tonight to me and Patric Young, and we just did a good job of finishing around the rim,” Murphy said. “The guards got us the ball in good positions, and that’s what worked tonight.”

The 6-9 Young added 16 points and nine rebounds.

“Their bulk and strength, over the course of the game, just really got us in the second half when we got ourselves in a situation where we didn’t make shots,” Demons coach Mike McConathy said.“I’m really proud of how hard our kids played.”

Northwestern State, the nation’s highest-scoring team averaging 81 points per game, was held to 47 points. The Demons were the 13th opponent the Gators have held this season to less than 50 points, and the 47 were 34 points below the Demons’ season average.

Florida turned up the defensive the pressure in the second half, holding the Demons to 19.2 percent shooting (5-of-26). They shot 36 percent for the game.

Florida ended the game on a 27-5 run over the final 11:50 of regulation and scored 12 points off 15 Northwestern State turnovers.

“I wasn’t really pleased with our defense in the first half,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “They shot too high of a percentage. I think anytime you see a team for the first time, there are adjustments that players have got to make.”

Fifty-five points was the Demons’ previous low in a win against Sam Houston State in the Southland Conference tournament.

“It just seemed like the buckets weren’t falling for us,” Northwestern State’s DeQuan Hicks said. “Games are runs. We just couldn’t make our run, and they made a run and pulled away.”

Hicks the Demons’ leading scorer averaging 14.1 points per game scored 12. Brison White added six.

“I think the first half we were going at our speed, but in the second half were slowed down and got discombobulated,” White said. “It’s kind of depressing. I’m used to the 60s, the 70s and 80s.”

Florida guards Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton added 11 points each as the Gators outrebounded the Demons 43-26.

“I think (rebounding) is a big thing for us,” Murphy said. “That’s one of the keys to defense. If you guard and make teams miss, you got to rebound and end the defensive possession.”