It may have taken a few minutes for the one-seed to get going on Friday, but a lights-out performance by senior forward Erik Murphy helped the No. 11/13 Florida Gators make quick work of the nine-seed LSU Tigers in the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN.
Murphy’s dominant performance – including career-highs in points (27), rebounds (12) and made three-pointers (five) – fueled Florida (25-6) to an 80-58 victory over LSU (19-12). The Gators advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament and will face either four-seed Alabama or five-seed Tennessee on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Shots were falling today. I felt good,” he said. “Whether the ball goes in the basket or not is out of your control. Coach has actually been saying just give good reps this week. Every rep in a good rep, whether it’s in game or practice. I try to do that.”
After tweaking his right knee in practice during the week, Murphy started Friday’s game wearing a thin brace but showed few ill effects, dominating the first half for Florida. Murphy scored 10 points and registered seven rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the contest, but LSU countered by hitting four of its first six attempts from downtown and trailed UF by just a single point midway through the period.
A 12-2 run spotted the Gators an 11-point advantage with five minutes left in the first half. Florida extended its lead to 15 at the break by ending the opening 20 minutes on an 8-2 scoring stretch capped by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from freshman guard Michael Frazier II coming out of a time out called by head coach Billy Donovan with 3.5 seconds left. UF’s lead would have been even greater had it not faltered at the charity stripe, starting 1-for-7 from the free throw line with six-straight misses.
“I think anytime you can make a shot at the end of the half either way, it always gives you a little momentum going in there,” Donovan said. “I thought there was enough time with the ball being taken out that we could at least get an attempt or get the ball in a good area of the floor. I thought Michael made a tough shot. I thought LSU defended it pretty well. He was able to get it off. That’s really what you want to do. You’re probably not going to get off the highest percentage shot, but you want to give yourself a chance to at least put it up on the rim.”
Murphy continued his domination in the second half as he scored five-straight points as part of a 7-1 run that put the Gators ahead by 21. In his first 21 minutes of court time, Murphy registered his third 20-point game of the season as well as his third double-double of the campaign. He finished 11-of-15 from the field and 5-of-7 from downtown.
Florida used a 20-4 stretch to extend its lead to a game-high 35 points with 8:37 remaining and cruised to the finish to register its fifth-straight victory over LSU.
Frazier (10 points, five boards), junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (16 points), junior center Patric Young (10 points, six boards) also scored in double-figures for the Gators. Senior guard Kenny Boynton made just one basket on seven attempts (0-for-4 beyond the arc) but registered a game-high seven assists.
“I thought Scottie played very, very well today offensively because he was on the receiving end of some things that Kenny did for him,” Donovan said. “Kenny took really good shots today. I thought he had really good clean looks. They didn’t go in. I have confidence when he takes those kinds of shots that he can go on a run. He didn’t today, but you know what, he probably accounted for a lot of other points with the ball in his hand finding other people.”
Guard Charles Carmouche led the Tigers with 14 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three while star forward Johnny O’Bryant III was held to three rebounds and eight points while going 3-for-7 from the field.
Florida outshot LSU from the field (.509-.333), from downtown (.550-.474) and from the charity stripe (.500-.464). The Gators also outrebounded the Tigers 52-38 with their 52 rebounds setting a program record in SEC Tournament play.
UF now awaits the outcome of the Alabama-Tennessee game to determine which team it will face on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a contest that will air live on ABC.
Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press