Murphy, No. 17 Florida too much for LSU


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 9:42 p.m.

For most of Saturday's game against LSU, Florida senior point guard Erving Walker was trying to work his way through an off shooting night.

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Florida forward Erik Murphy drives to the basket past LSU center Justin Hamilton during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

But with junior center Justin Hamilton sparking a late LSU run, the Gators turned to Walker in the clutch. Walker scored 8 of UF's final 10 points, helping No. 17 Florida hold on for a 76-64 win over the Tigers before 12,198 at the O'Connell Center.

“Crunch time is his time,” said Florida junior forward Erik Murphy, who led five Florida scorers in double figures with 15 points. “That's what he thrives on. Knocked down a big 3 for us, got fouled a bunch, made free throws. I have so much confidence in him, especially down the stretch.”

Hamilton cut Florida's 16-point lead in the second half down to 8 when he hit a jumper with 3:24 remaining to pull LSU within 68-60. But Walker answered by drawing LSU freshman point guard Anthony Hickey's fifth foul on a drive. Walker made both free throws to extend UF's lead to 70-60. Then, after an LSU missed shot, Walker made his only 3-pointer of the game off a high screen on a pick-and-roll to put UF up 73-60 with 2:29 left.

“He's gotta little bit of a killer attitude to him where he's a competitive guy,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He gets that look on his face sometimes.”

Donovan said that Walker checked him off on the 3-pointer that sealed the game for the Gators. At that point, Walker was just 2 of 8 from the floor and 0 of 5 from 3-point range.

“He kind of gets into that mode there,” Donovan said. “But I don't mind it when he gets like that. Coaching him for four years, I've got enough confidence and trust in him.”

The 5-foot-8 Walker has developed a knack for hitting big shots down the stretch throughout his career. With 12 points against LSU, Walker moved into 7th place on UF's all-time scoring list with 1,575 points. Walker passed Eugene McDowell (1,565 points), Matt Bonner (1,570 points) and Gene Shy (1,573 points).

“It's not a matter of who takes the shot in tight situations,” Walker said. “Coach had a couple of high ball screens. It wasn't for me to necessarily shoot, but the way they were playing me I was able to get some good shots. That's the key to taking good shots.”

Florida overcame an off 3-point shooting night with balanced scoring. Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton added 11 points apiece, though Boynton (0 of 4 from 3-point range) had his streak of 34 straight 3-pointers come to an end. Mike Rosario also had another strong game off the bench with 11 points.

“We had good balance. We had good ball movement,” Donovan said. “I don't think what we did on offense reflects our assist to turnover ratio (11 to 12) because we were pretty efficient.”

Florida shot just 33 percent (7 of 21) from 3-point range, but made 20 of 27 of its 2-point baskets. Florida shot 56.3 percent from the field.

For the second straight game, Florida sophomore Patric Young came off the bench due to lingering ankle tendinitis. With limited minutes from Young, Hamilton hurt the Gators inside. The 7-foot transfer from Iowa State scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half.

“We made runs,” Hamilton said. “We just needed the extra effort to keep it going.”

Donovan said he considered double-teaming Hamilton in the final four minutes, but was more concerned about giving up open looks from the 3-point line.

“We lived with him having a huge night,” Donovan said.

LSU (12-7, 2-3 SEC) jumped ahead 10-4 early, but Young (8 points, 7 rebounds in 24 minutes) scored six straight points to tie the score at 10. Florida took its first lead, 15-14, on a Murphy 3-pointer. Murphy, who had been 3 for his previous 12 from 3-point range, broke out of a four-game slump by going 3 for 4 from 3-point range against LSU.

“Anybody on our team can really score, and that is really important for us,” Murphy said. “We have to try to continue to play together and spread the wealth.”

The Gators then turned to the press, which was effective for most of the first half. Florida scored 10 points off 10 first-half LSU turnovers, building a 38-26 halftime lead.

“We didn't do a good job in the first half when the pressure hit us,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “In the second half, we played like we're capable of playing.”

FREE THROWS: Donovan said Young took part in half of Thursday's practice and most of Friday's practice. “He's getting better,” Donovan said. “I just think with him missing practice time before this game … it didn't warrant him the opportunity to start the game.” … Murphy had a blocked shot in the first half and now has at least one blocked shot in seven straight games. … Florida's bench outscored LSU's bench 24-10.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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