Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Florida routs LSU in SEC

NASHVILLE — Erik Murphy wore a blue sleeve on his right knee and nursed a slight injury, but you couldn't tell by the way he played Friday.

The senior posted career highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds to help lead No. 13 Florida to an 80-58 victory over LSU in the SEC quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena.

The No. 1 seed Gators (25-6) play No. 4 Alabama at 1 p.m. today in the semifinals. The Gators beat the Tide 64-52 on March 2 thanks to a late 15-0 run that put them up 56-47.

"Shots were falling," Murphy, who was 11-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers., said of his Friday performance. "It felt good. It always feels good. Coach just kept saying just keep good reps this week. I try to do that."

Murphy became the 49th Gator to reach 1,000 career points, overcoming pain he began to feel earlier this week.

Florida coach Billy Donovan hoped his players would rediscover the fire and passion that helped them win 24 games before the tournament. He got an emotional performance along with great offense and a solid inside-outside game. UF shot 50.9 percent from the field (29-of-57) and 55 percent from 3-point range (11-of-20), and outrebounded the Tigers 47-27. Four of the Gators' first six baskets were inside.

The performance, the players said, stemmed from a week of intense preparation.

"I can't lie. It was really difficult practices," said junior center Patric Young, who had 10 points and six rebounds.

"Coach really challenged us because he wants us to be great, and we challenged each other. I can honestly say that we left everything we had in those practices leading up to the tournament here. And it really did help prepare us and to really get us focused on finishing games and going out and doing what it takes to win."

Florida led 13-6 early before No. 9 seed LSU (19-12) went on an 8-2 run to pull within 15-14.

But Florida responded with a 12-3 run, opening a lead LSU never overcame.

"We knew going into the game it would be a great challenge against a really strong basketball team," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "I thought Florida did a tremendous job of coming out, establishing themselves early and really setting the tone. Unfortunately for us, I don't think we were hitting on all cylinders."

Florida led 43-28 at halftime, going into the locker room with momentum from a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by freshman Michael Frazier. The Tampa native spent part of halftime getting a shot for pain in his left hand after he jammed it trying to get a rebound. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

 
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