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(Friday, March 22nd)
Final Score: Florida 79, Northwestern State 47
Austin, TX (Sports Network) - Erik Murphy scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, and Florida used a strong second half to cruise past Northwestern State, 79-47, in South Region second-round action of the NCAA Tournament.
Patric Young poured in 16 points and pulled down nine boards for the third- seeded Gators (27-7), who held Northwestern State to just 15 points in the final 20 minutes of play to move on to face Minnesota in Sunday's third round.
"I think one thing was we got back in transition a lot better and got matched up," Murphy said of Florida's second-half adjustments. "They were hurting us a little bit in transition. We just came together as a team and decided we were going to get stops and when we play together on defense, we play well. It's tough for teams to score."
DeQuan Hicks had 12 points and eight rebounds for the 14th-seeded Demons (23-9), who trailed by eight at halftime but struggled to slow down the Gators thereafter.
Northwestern State was appearing in its first NCAA Tournament in seven years after winning the Southland Conference Tournament title.
The matchup featured two of the nation's top offensive and defensive teams, as Northwestern State is known for a unique, 10-man rotation and up tempo attack which leads the NCAA in scoring with 81.5 points per contest. Florida, on the other hand, ranks third in the nation allowing just 53.7 points per contest.
After starting the second half with a eight-point deficit, Northwestern State scored four unanswered to get within 40-36. Kenny Boynton then kicked off a 9-2 swing -- en route to scoring his 2,000th career point -- to put Florida ahead by 11 with 14:20 remaining.
The Demons briefly closed the margin to eight, but the team's pace and style of play soon slowed down as the Gators took control with a 19-1 flurry to quickly alter the contest.
Scottie Wilbekin highlighted the end the run with a half court alley-oop slam to Casey Prather to make it 63-42 with 8 1/2 to play. Nearly two minutes later, Murphy's layup extended the margin to 26 and Florida never looked back.
"I mean we played a very, very good first half," Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. "In fact, I think we cut it to four right before the half and we lay it up and then we give them a lay up back on the other end. Something that we just haven't done this year. But the caliber of team that Florida is, you just can't make mistakes."
Northwestern State's struggles during the run were eye-opening, even for the nation's top scoring unit. The team went 6:28 without a point and just over seven minutes without a field goal.
The first half, as expected, was high-paced. The Demons hung around thanks to their tempo, and trailed, 23-21, with 10:25 to play. Florida then had a 9-2 spurt, capped off by a Rosario triple which made it 32-24.
Northwestern State closed the gap to four with just over two minutes to play in the half before Florida took a 40-32 edge into the break. The Gators scored 26 points in the paint in the half, while the Demons shot 54.2 percent (13- of-24) from the floor.
Florida is 5-0 all-time against current Southland Conference teams, including 2-0 in NCAA Tournament play ... Wilbekin and Boynton finished with 11 points apiece for Florida ... In the Demons' last tournament appearance in 2006, the team upset Iowa as a No. 14 seed ... Boynton needed five points for 2,000 in his career. He joined Ronnie Williams as the only Gator in that club ... Florida has held 13 opponents under 50 points and 24 to under 60 for the season.
03/23 00:59:04 ET
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