Inspired play and a career-high 24 points on a perfect shooting performance from senior forward Erik Murphy led the No. 10/10 Florida Gators (2-0) to a 74-56 victory over the No. 20/22 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1) on Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Murphy, who fell ill early in the week, missed practice on Monday and barely practiced Tuesday but woke up Wednesday feeling fine. He played much better than fine hours later, shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from the field, 2-for-2 from downtown and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe, adding eight rebounds, a steal and a block with only one turnover.
After going just 3-5 against top-25 opponents last season, the Gators opened their 2012-13 campaign with a big victory in the O’Dome against the first of seven top-25 teams they are set to face this season.
Florida and Wisconsin began the game hot and cold, respectively, with the UF taking an early 9-0 run and increasing their advantage to 21-9 on five-straight points by redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario. It did not take long for the Gators to give up that 12-point lead, however, as Florida turned the ball over eight times in the first 10:15 – including a stretch of four-straight possessions with a turnover – and allowed UW to put together a 10-0 run and cut its deficit down to two.
The Gators found their way back to a double-digit advantage and took 13-point lead with 3:01 left in the half thanks to the 13th four-point play of senior G Kenny Boynton’s career. Murphy led the way, grabbing three rebounds and scoring 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting (2-for-2 from downtown) to give UF a 43-31 lead at the break despite the team’s 12 turnovers.
Read the rest of the Florida-Wisconsin game story…after the break!
Opening the second half on a 7-0 run, Florida stretched its lead out to 19 points though Wisconsin quickly brought its deficit back down to 12. The Badgers soon went cold from the floor once again, allowing the Gators to use a 12-2 scoring stretch to go up 22 points, 64-42, with 6:36 left in the contest.
Florida extended its lead to a game-high 24 points with less than three minutes to play and held on for an impressive victory over a top-25 opponent known as the best road team in its conference over the last 12 seasons.
Joining Murphy with an impressive outing was Rosario, who started 5-of-7 from the field but missed his final four shots of the game. He finished with 15 points, four boards and four times but also coughed up four turnovers. Boynton was just 1-for-5 from beyond the arch for 10 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Junior center Patric Young and junior F Will Yeguete combined for 17 points and 15 rebounds but also gave up nine total turnovers.
Freshman G Michael Frazier was the only bench player to see more than five minutes of action, going 3-for-3 from the floor and 2-for-2 from three for eight points in 19 minutes.
The Gators shot 75 percent from the field in the first half but dipped down to 61.9 percent for the game. Florida did hit 50 percent of its treys (6-of-12) and 80 percent of its free throws (16-of-20), out-rebounding Wisconsin 40-21 but losing the turnover battle by a huge margin of 20-10.
Murphy became the four player in school history to not miss a single shot with a minimum of 10 field goal attempts, joining the likes of David Lee and Joakim Noah. He came two baskets away from tying Lee’s school record of a 12-for-12 performance.
The Gators will now prepare to play a stretch of three games in six days beginning with a neutral site contest against Middle Tennessee in Tampa, FL on Sunday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports.
Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press