Murphy, Gators host UAB to wrap up pre-SEC slate

Coming off a career-high 18 points, Erik Murphy has returned from the injury to become a more complete player.

Florida junior forward Erik Murphy bounced back nicely from an early-season injury to average 10.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, including an 18-point showing in Saturday's win against Yale.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.

When junior forward Erik Murphy first injured his knee in late November, Florida feared the worst.


No. 13 Florida (11-3) vs. Ala.-Birmingham (5-7)

When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Television: FSN; Radio: 103.7 FM
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 19.4 ppg 3.0 apg
G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 13.1 ppg 5.2 apg
G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 15.1 ppg 6.4 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Jr. 10.7 ppg 4.5 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 So. 11.9 ppg 6.9 rpg
G Preston Purifoy 6-5 So. 7.3 ppg 2.2 rpg
G Quincy Taylor 6-0 So. 4.7 ppg 2.9 apg
F Jordan Swing 6-6 So. 10.7 ppg 3.9 rpg
F Ovie Soko 6-8 Jr. 9.2 ppg 7.3 rpg
C Cameron Moore 6-10 Sr. 14.6 ppg 11.5 rpg
Notes: Florida is 1-1 all time against UAB. … Florida's last meeting against UAB was a 75-70 win in 2006 at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. … The Gators have won 13 straight home games. … Boynton is second in the SEC in scoring at 19.4 and has averaged 22 ppg over his last three games … Florida leads the SEC with 17.6 assists per game and a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. …UAB returns just two starters from a team that finished 22-9 and earned a “first four” at large berth to the NCAA Tournament last season. …Moore, the preseason Conference USA player of the year, leads the Blazers in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots (43). … With 450 career assists, Walker is two shy of passing Nick Calathes (452) for third on UF's all-time career assist list.

But what was initially diagnosed as a torn MCL turned out be a bone bruise. The 6-foot-10 Murphy missed three games, including a loss at Syracuse.

Murphy has returned from the injury to become a more complete player. Coming off a career-high 18 points Saturday against Yale, Murphy and the rest of the Gators will wrap up non-conference play tonight at home against UAB.

Murphy also tied a career high with three blocked shots against Yale. The knock on Murphy early in his career has been his defense. But since his return to the starting lineup against Texas A&M, Murphy has averaged 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

“It's part of my role and I'm trying to get better,” Murphy said. “That's something I have to try to improve on as much as I can. I've been working on it, watching some film, trying to get better at positioning.”

Murphy said he studied film extensively while he sat out with the knee injury.

“I just became more aware all the time, having my head on a swivel, just trying to see what was going on,” Murphy said. “Not being so locked into my man if I don't have to.”

Florida, which dropped to No. 13 in this week's AP poll, will need Murphy to maintain that defensive focus heading into Southeastern Conference play. After tonight's game against UAB, Florida opens league play at Tennessee on Saturday.

“He's getting better,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said of Murphy's defense. “I'd like to see him rebound the ball better, but I do think he's getting better.”

Offensively, Murphy has reached double figures in scoring in all five games since returning to the starting lineup. He's averaging 13.6 points per game during that span while shooting 52.2 percent from 3-point range.

Against Yale, Murphy missed his first two 3-point attempts, then made his next five.

“Coach got a little mad at me in the beginning of the game because I was getting frustrated with myself,” Murphy said. “I missed my first couple, he said just keep shooting if you are open. I just knocked them down more in the second half. It felt good.”

Said Donovan: “He had some pretty good looks in the first half that didn't go down. He shot the ball much better in the second half which was great to see.”

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