Gators' offense wakes up in rout of LSU


Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida found a cure for its sputtering offense in its SEC Tournament quarterfinal matchup Friday against LSU.

Facts

Today's game

Who: No. 13 Florida Gators (25-6) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (21-11)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Gainesville-area TV: ABC
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

More ball movement, more player movement and more emphasis on finding Erik Murphy for open shots all over the floor.

Behind a career-high 27 points from Murphy, No. 13 Florida overwhelmed LSU early and didn't let up in its 80-58 win over the Tigers at Bridgestone Arena.

Florida (25-6) will face Alabama (21-11) in today's SEC Tournament semifinals (1 p.m., ABC). The Crimson Tide knocked off Tennessee 58-48 to advance to their second meeting with the Gators this month. Florida beat Alabama 64-52 on March 2 at the O'Connell Center, rallying from down eight points in the second half.

Against LSU, Florida was crisp moving the ball throughout the game with 17 assists. The Gators did have 16 turnovers, but many came late when Florida played out the string with its freshman class and walk-on Jacob Kurtz.




“I thought we had pretty good offensive flow,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

From the opening tip, the Gators sent a physical message. Florida's first four baskets were in and around the paint, which included a pair of inside bank shots from Murphy. Then, Murphy hit the first of his five 3-pointers to put the Gators up 11-5.

“It was big,” said Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton, who posted a selfless game with two points and seven assists. “Murph, he established his presence, you know, he scored that jump hook and it cleared things for everyone. I think we need to start more games out going inside-out.”

Scottie Wilbekin added 16 points and three assists, and freshman Michael Frazier II had 11 points off the bench. Patric Young also had 10 points and six rebounds and could have had a bigger day had he not missed six free-throw attempts.

Florida shot 50.9 percent from the floor and 55 percent (11 of 20) from 3-point range. Murphy and Wilbekin were a combined 9 of 12 from beyond the arc.

“We know we can score,” Wilbekin said. “We know we can get good shots. It's just a matter of us rising up and shooting with confidence and making good shots.”

Florida closed the regular season 3-3 in large part because an offense that averaged just 62.3 points per game during that span. Florida's assist-to-turnover ratio during that span was 63 to 59. Florida's 80 points were the most it scored since beating Auburn 83-52 on Feb. 16.

“The last three days in practice, that's all we've been doing, offense,” Frazier said. “I would say the main key to the way we played today was practice. We worked hard, and coach has been telling us we've got to keep the ball moving, keep our bodies moving. We did that and we got open shots.”

Boynton (seven shot attempts) and senior guard Mike Rosario (seven shot attempts) took a backseat to Murphy, who took a season-high 15 shots. Young had only five shot attempts, but got to the free-throw line 10 times.

“We got to the free-throw line 22 times, which is good,” Donovan said. “Erik, I think, was much, much more of a presence at the basket. He established himself. Even when they were switching and doing different things, we found them. I thought we were balanced inside-and-out.'

Another area where the Gators showed marked improvement — rebounding. Florida outrebounded LSU 47-27, resulting in 19 second-chance points. Murphy posted his third career double-double and second in as many games with 27 points and 12 rebounds.

Florida had been outrebounded in five of its previous six games. Donovan put bubbles on the rims in practice this week to help the Gators get back to being more physical on the glass.

“That all helps, too, but I think the most important thing is the effort,” Donovan said. “It's very difficult to get rebounds when you don't jump. Our frontcourt guys, Erik in particular, really, really went after rebounds today.”

Up 18-17 in the first half, the Gators went on a 12-2 run, taking a 30-19 lead on a Murphy 3-pointer. Florida maintained its focus the rest of the half. Up 38-28, Florida closed the half with a 5-0 run in the final 1:29, taking a 43-28 halftime lead on a turnaround, 25-foot 3-pointer from Frazier at the halftime buzzer.

Then, to start the second half, Young was able to draw at third foul on LSU center Johnny O'Bryant III and made both free throws. Murphy followed up with a 3-pointer and an inside basket during a 7-1 run that extended UF's lead to 50-29.

“Probably that last three seconds of the first half and that first five to 10 seconds of the second, there was definitely a momentum change there,” Donovan said.

Wilbekin's 16 points were one shy of his career-high 17 points he posted Jan. 23 at Georgia. The junior point guard said Donovan prodded him to shoot more from the perimeter if he had open looks.

“Coach said that's the best play for our team if you are open and the best shot in that situation,” Wilbekin said.

About the only area where the Gators sputtered was at the free-throw line, where Florida made 11 of 22 attempts. Young spent extra time at halftime taking free throws with assistant coach John Pelphrey watching him after the 6-foot-9 forward missed all four of his first-half attempts. Young responded by going 4 of 6 from the line in the second half.

Young said practices were intense for the Gators this week, but that he “loved every minute of it.”

“Coach really challenged us because he wants us to be great,” Young said. “And we challenged each other.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton, 6-2, Sr., 12.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg

G Mike Rosario, 6-3, Sr., 12.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

G Scottie Wilbekin, 6-2, Jr., 9.2 ppg, 5.0 apg

F Erik Murphy, 6-10, Sr., 12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg

C Patric Young, 6-9, Jr., 10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg

ALABAMA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Trevor Releford, 6-0, Jr., 15.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg

G Trevor Lacey, 6-3, So., 11.7 ppg, 3.1 apg

G Levi Randolph, 6-5, So., 7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg

F Rodney Cooper, 6-6, So., 10.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg

C Moussa Gueye, 7-0, Jr., 1.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Notes: Florida will face Alabama for the second time this season. The Gators downed Alabama 64-52 on March 8 in Gainesville, rallying back from an 8-point deficit. … Florida senior forward Erik Murphy has posted double-doubles in each of his last two games. Murphy is averaging 22 points and 11.5 rebounds during that span. … The game will feature a matchup of the SEC's top two scoring defenses. Alabama is second in the SEC in scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.9 points per game. The Gators rank first in the SEC and third in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 53.4 points per game. The Gators have held 12 opponents under 50 points and 22 opponents under 60 points. … Offensively, Florida broke out of a shooting slump by shooting 55 percent (11 of 20) from 3-point range in its 80-58 SEC Tournament quarterfinal win over LSU. … Alabama sophomore center Nick Jacobs is averaging 7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds off the bench. Jacobs had 11 points and five rebounds against the Gators earlier this season. … Florida coach Billy Donovan is 22-13 in SEC Tournament games.

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