Florida Gators cruise past Northwestern State and into the Round of 32

Scoring is what Northwestern State does best. Nobody does it better.

But the Demons — the nation’s top scoring team — couldn’t muster nearly enough points to put a NCAA Tournament dent into stingy Florida, as the Gators rolled to a 79-47 victory Friday.

Defense — Florida’s forte — went into lockdown mode in the second half and put the outcome to rest.

“We couldn’t make anything happen,” said Demons coach Mike McConathy, who compared his team’s sputtering offense to an antique automobile that doesn’t want to start. “You try to crank it up and it won’t crank.”

That’s the Gators for you. As a result, they’ll advance to play the winner of UCLA-Minnesota in the next round on Sunday.

Florida, which boasts the nation’s third-ranked defense, held Northwestern State to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Demon’s previous low was 55 points.

Not only that, Northwestern State went more than eight minutes without a basket during one stretch in the second half and shot just 19 percent over the final 20 minutes. They were outmuscled in the paint, too, where Florida owned a 43-26 rebounding edge.

“It was a collective effort,” said Gators guard Kenny Boynton.

There was no deja vu for Northwestern State, which pulled off a No. 3 vs. No. 14 shocker in 2006, the last time the Demons appeared in the NCAA Tournament. Florida took advantage of its superior size, controlling the boards and scoring inside, with Erik Murphy leading the way with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Patric Young also contributed with his inside play, scoring 16 points to go with nine rebounds.

“We just did a good job around the rim,” Murphy said.

Northwestern State likes to run and substitute in five-man waves, sending in fresh players to wear down the opponent.

No sweat for the Gators.

“I was never concerned going into this game about the pace of the game,” said UF coach Billy Donovan. “We wanted to play just as fast as they did. The faster the game, it was more to our liking.”

Furthermore, Donovan was not worried about fatigue.

“Everybody was talking about the fact they rotate five guys in, five guys out, are our guys going to get worn out?” Donovan said. “We had no problem.”

The Demons made a game of it in the first half, shooting 54 percent from the field. That disturbed Donovan, who demands better.

He got it after intermission.

After the Demons made a couple of quick baskets to cut the Florida lead to 40-36, they hit the skids.

Florida outscored them the rest of the way 39-11.

After a made free throw with 12 minutes left, Northwestern State didn’t score again until the 5:46 mark. And when DeQuan Hicks scored on a layup with five minutes remaining, it was their first basket eight long minutes.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the Florida defense,” said the Demons’ Shamir Davis.

Most teams do.

There’s nothing glitzy or glamorous about the Gators. There’s not a lot of flash.

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