Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 79, #14 Northwestern State 47Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #14 Northwestern State in Austin.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Florida’s size and the athleticism of its bigs were just too much for Northwestern State. Everyone knew Florida was going to have a size and athleticism advantage over Northwestern State, but those advantages actually turned out to be much greater than expected. In a first half that was actually hotly-contested – Florida led by just eight at the break – the Gators took advantage of their athletic bigs Erik Murphy and Patric Young. Murphy tallied 11 points and Young tallied nine points in the opening frame. When Florida pulled away in the second half, its big continued to play a key role. Murphy finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Young finished with 16 points and eight boards. Reserves Will Yeguete and Casey Prather also provided Florida with solid minutes in the post. It is not that the Northwestern State bigs were not playing hard – they absolutely were – it was just they were so heavily overmatched on both ends of the court by the size and athletic ability of the Florida frontcourt.
- Florida’s guards played smart and avoided taking bad shots and committing bad turnovers. Florida’s guards have rightfully earned a reputation for being inconsistent and shaky with the basketball. That was not the case against Northwestern State, as Scottie Wilbekin, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario all turned in pretty solid performances for the Gators. Wilbekin, who finished with 11 points and four assists, looked very solid running the offense and he also did a commendable job of scoring when needed. Boynton, who has been an enigma throughout his time in Gainesville, showed that he can absolutely turn in an efficient game by finishing with 11 points and refraining from taking any questionable shots. Rosario scored below his season average – he averages 12.3 points per game and he only finished with eight – but he avoided making mistakes. Florida is going to face better teams than Northwestern State as it continues its run through the tournament, but if its guards remain steady, there is an opportunity for the Gators to make it to Atlanta.
- With Georgetown falling tonight, Florida’s road to the Elite Eight got much easier. The South region became much more interesting when two-seed Georgetown suffered the upset of the tournament thus far by losing to 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Before the tournament began, a vast majority of national pundits were predicting a Florida/Georgetown matchup in next week’s South Regional at Cowboys Stadium. Now because that matchup cannot occur anymore, Florida will be the healthy favorite to come out of the bottom part of the South bracket. With the win over Northwestern State, the Gators advance to a Sunday showdown with either six-seed UCLA or 11-seed Minnesota. The winner of Sunday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Florida Gulf Coast and either seven-seed San Diego State or 10-seed Oklahoma. With a six-seed being the highest possible seed the Gators will have to face before the Elite Eight, it is only logical to conclude that their road to the Elite Eight has become much easier than originally expected.
Star of the Game. Erik Murphy, Florida. The senior forward helped set the tone for the Gators all night. Four Gators finished in double figures and Murphy led the way with 18 points. Murphy’s ability to finish around the hoop and step out and hit a jumper frustrated the Demons’ bigs all evening. Murphy was also part of an impressive defensive effort turned in by the Gators that held Northwestern State to just 15 points in the second half.
- “It is all about competing and playing hard. I felt like we did that tonight.” – Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy finding a silver lining in a game his team lost by 32 points.
- “In the second half, we just came together as a team and started helping each other out.” – Florida guard Kenny Boynton, talking about what allowed the Gators to pull away in the second half.
- “We came together as a team and decided to get stops.” – Florida forward Erik Murphy when asked about how the team was able to hold Northwestern State to just 15 points in the second half.
Sights and Sounds. Florida traveled well to tonight’s game. While the crowd was a bit late arriving due to it being the first game of the second session, the droves of Gators fans made their way into the Erwin Center at about the halfway point of the first half. With their team playing their way to an easy victory, the Florida fans were loud and involved until the final whistle. Most of the nation was captivated tonight by the Florida Gulf Coast upset victory over Georgetown and the crowd at the Erwin Center was no different. The scoreboard aired approximately the final two minutes of the upset and everyone watching became a big Florida Gulf Coast supporter. When the final buzzer sounded and the Eagles had secured the improbable victory, the crowd in Austin voiced its approval with a raucous reaction.
What’s Next. Florida advances to the Round of 32 where it will face the winner of tonight’s UCLA/Minnesota game.