Murphy scores 21 as Gators pull away vs. Air Force
Published: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:36 p.m.
SUNRISE — Florida spent the practices following the Dec. 22 loss at Kansas State going over extra film.
The emphasis? Better shot selection to make the game easier for each other.
After a sluggish first half Saturday, the No. 14 Gators (9-2) pulled away to beat Air Force 78-61 at the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic before 12,779 at the BB&T Center.
Up just 33-31 at halftime, Florida went 16-of-23 from the field in the second half, scoring the 16 baskets off seven assists.
“I thought we got better the last couple of days recognizing each other's strengths, talents, abilities,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We showed that a little bit more in the second half.”
Senior forward Erik Murphy led the Gators, scoring 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field to earn game MVP honors.
“I was just trying to take open shots, and if they switched on me, try to take advantage of the mismatch in the post,” Murphy said. “I just felt like sometimes it was open in the post because there were some smaller guys on me.”
Murphy went 2-of-3 from 3-point range and scored his remaining six baskets from inside 15 feet.
“He's capable of not just being a one-dimensional player, where he's just shooting 3s,” Donovan said. “Certainly, he's a great 3-point shooter, but I think now when people are switching on him, we're finding him.
“We've got to make sure he's balanced. He's got to get 3s, he's got to get post touches. He's got to get 15-footers, he's got to get fouled and get to the free-throw line. And I thought today was really a complete game offensively for him doing those things.”
Senior Kenny Boynton also broke out of a long shooting slump in his homecoming game, adding 14 points while going 3-of-7 from 3-point range. Boynton had come into the game having made just 4 of his previous 32 3-point attempts.
“I just tried to make sure the game came to me,” Boynton said. “I was going over a lot of film with coach Donovan with the shots that I've been taking. I just tried to take open ones, and that's what I tried to do in the second half.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Boynton extended Florida's lead to 43-34 early in the second half. He followed it up with a pretty feed to Casey Prather on a dunk in transition that put the Gators ahead 45-37. Boynton added three assists and four rebounds.
“It felt good, to come out and play an all-around good game,” Boynton said. “We were definitely happy with the win. We had a couple of tough practices. So we're just basically trying to win out from here.”
Boynton grew up in nearby Pompano Beach and played high school basketball just down the road from the BB&T Center at American Heritage High. He had about 20 friends and family members at the game, including his parents.
“This is my last time playing in college to come down here, and I had fun,” Boynton said.
Air Force (8-3) stayed in the game early with a torrid start from 3-point range, making 6-of-13 attempts in the first half. The Falcons came into the game making 9.1 3-pointers per game.
“They hit 3s from all five spots,” Murphy said. “Coach just emphasized at halftime to take away the 3-point line.”
In the second half, Florida sacrificed some inside baskets to overplay the 3-point line. Air Force took just seven 3-point attempts in the second half, making three.
Donovan also pointed out the strong defensive play of Scottie Wilbekin, who held Air Force senior guard Michael Lyons to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Lyons came into the game averaging 20.5 points per game.
“That's something that doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but Scottie was still able to impact the game,” Donovan said,
Offensively, Donovan emphasized the continuation of working the ball inside to Murphy and Patric Young after the Gators took 11 3-pointers in their first 19 shot attempts. Young scored 9 of his 13 points in the second half.
“Believe me, I'm an advocate of the 3-point line, but there's got to be some level of balance,” Donovan said. “In the second half, we shoot 70 percent from the field, we're inside, we're out, we get a few steals, we're offensive rebounding. We're making better reads and better decisions.”
Note: UF freshman guard Dillon Graham was unavailable for the game due to an illness. Graham traveled with the team and took part in the morning shootaround but felt under the weather by gametime.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.