Florida jumps out early and goes on to beat Badgers
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Erik Murphy is no longer just an outside threat.
Murphy tied a career-high with 24 points days after dealing with a migraine headache, and No. 10 Florida beat 22nd-ranked Wisconsin 74-56 on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-10 power forward made all 10 of his shots, including several in the post and just two from 3-point range, as the short-handed Gators enjoyed a double-digit lead most of the night. He also had seven rebounds.
“That’s the one dimension that I told Erik that he needed to add to his game: being able to catch the ball inside against a smaller person and score,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Tonight he really did a good job of that.”
Murphy became just the fourth player in school history and 18th in Southeastern Conference history to take at least 10 shots in a game and make them all.
“Mr. Versatility is what you should call him,” teammate Pat Young said. “He knocked down 3s. He knocked down pull-ups. He was in the post. He was making moves. He was getting offensive rebounds and putting them back up. That was just really cool just seeing him play the way.
“I know he’s been able to play like that for a long time. It’s just been a matter of time for him to get the opportunity to actually do it, and I’m really proud of him.”
Mike Rosario added 15 points, four rebounds and four assists for Florida (2-0), and Kenny Boynton chipped in 10.
Sam Dekker and Jared Berggren had 11 points apiece for Wisconsin (1-1).
The Gators, playing without point guard Scottie Wilbekin (suspension) and forward Casey Prather (concussion), essentially won the game with fast starts in both halves. Florida scored the first nine points of the game and the first seven after intermission.
Murphy was involved in both runs. He made a baseline hook that seemed to get him started early. He added a jumper, a putback and a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 16-6.
The Badgers (1-1), meanwhile, came out flat, missing their first six shots — including five from behind the arc.
“I don’t hang my players out, but the thing that we worked on we did the opposite,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
That early hole proved too big to overcome against the hot-shooting Gators.
Florida hit 18 of 24 shots (75 percent) in the first 20 minutes and extended the lead to 19 (50-31) early in the second half. Boynton converted the 13th four-point play of his career to open the second half. Murphy followed with a post basket, and then Boyton added a driving layup.
The Badgers never cut the lead below 12 the rest of the way.
“We’re not quite ready for that (kind of comeback) yet,” Ryan said.
Murphy had been questionable to play. He missed practice earlier this week with a severe headache that caused nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Not only did he play, he also started. And he didn’t miss.
“I felt fine the whole game,” said Murphy, who didn’t realize he was perfect from the field. “I just tried to take my shots in the offense. I didn’t even really realize it. I was just trying to play.”
After staying behind for a postgame TV interview, Murphy briefly got the silent treatment from teammates in the locker room before they mobbed him.
“It was great seeing him actually going out there and perform with such great confidence and being unstoppable tonight,” Young said.
The only negative for Florida was 20 turnovers. Playing without Wilbekin, Rosario and Boynton shared ball-handling duties, and the Gators turned it over 12 times before the break.
But they had enough offense to make the turnovers negligible.
Freshman Michael Frazier II had eight points and five rebounds for Florida. Fellow forward Will Yeguete finished with nine points and eight boards. Florida dominated the glass, outrebounding Wisconsin 40-21.
“This isn’t a surprise to basketball people,” Ryan said of the Gators. “They’ve got different things that can hurt you.”
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