Alex Murphy to Transfer from Duke to Florida; Erik Murphy’s Brother to Play for Gators

While the football program is routinely gutted by the transfer process, head men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to convince those not happy with their current situations to come play for the Florida Gators. The latest to announce his intentions to transfer to Florida is forward Alex Murphy, younger brother of former Gators forward Erik Murphy.

Alex Murphy, Florida Gators

The younger Murphy was one of the nation’s better prospects coming out of high school. He was a four-star recruit across the four major services – 247, ESPN, Rivals, and Scout – and fell between No. 36 and No. 45 in overall rankings. Murphy committed to the Duke Blue Devils over Florida and redshirted his first season, 2011-12. Over the next season and a half, Murphy never became a consistent contributor for the Blue Devils, averaging 6.3 minutes in 2012-13 and 6.3 this season. Murphy only appeared in five of Duke’s 10 games this season.

When it became evident Murphy would look to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere, Florida became the logical choice. His No. 2 during the recruiting process, Murphy had come to know the Gators through both his brother and Donovan. There was a connection that benefitted Florida greatly when Murphy decided Duke was no longer for him.

Because of the timing of his transfer, Murphy will be eligible to play for the Gators one year from now, or about halfway through the 2014-15 season. He could become a big part of the rotation immediately as Florida loses Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young after this season. With Damontre Harris not an option and soon-to-be-playing freshman Chris Walker likely a one-and-done (or half-and-done to be accurate), the Gators need bigs. While Murphy plays a similar style of basketball as that of his older brother, he still has size and Florida will need it.

Michigan Wolverines 79 – Florida Gators 59: Gators Season Comes to a Painful End

The end hurt. It was as painful as a loss could be. The Michigan Wolverines came sprinting out of the gate and never looked back, defeating the Florida Gators 79-59 in the process. For the Wolverines, the Final Four awaits. For the Gators, the 2012-13 season has come to a close, the third-straight that has ended in the Elite Eight. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of, but not now and not for some time. For now, it was an embarrassing showing by a team that had the talent and ability to put up more of a fight.

Florida Gators - Michigan Wolverines

We saw dominance against Northwestern State. We saw a big lead held on to if barely and then turned into an impressive win against Minnesota. We saw a comeback against Florida Gulf Coast. And we saw little of anything against Michigan. Florida was overwhelmed from the start and lost almost every battle–shooting percentages across the board, assists, steals and turnovers. Even when the Gators marched back in an attempt to make a game out of it, the Wolverines were too much and too steady to be overtaken. One team didn’t play it’s best while the other looked very good. What could have been one for the ages, ended up being a 20-point margin in a game that was decided early.

Now we have the time to ponder it all. Over the months to come, we’ll talk about Erik Murphy’s 0-for-11 performance. We may discuss how the Gators went 2-for-10 from behind the three-point line. We’ll wonder why in 15 minutes of game time, Florida’s leading shooter from behind the arc–Michael Frazier II–didn’t attempt a single three. We’ll wonder how the outcome would have been affected if at the 16:57 mark of the first half the score hadn’t been 13-0 in Michigan’s favor. We have a lot of time on our hands and a lot to wonder. Most important of all how it all ended in a 20-point loss in the Elite Eight.

Eventually, we’ll feel excitement toward next season. It will be quite some time from now, but it will come. We wish it would come sooner for obvious reasons. We want to erase Sunday and will painfully watch the Final Four for the third-straight year wishing the Gators were a part of it. But for now, we mourn the disappointing end to what had become a relatively good season.

Florida Gators 79 – Northwestern State Demons 47: Gators Open NCAA Tournament with Big Win

The Florida Gators overcame a flurry of energy from the Northwestern State Demons to cruise to a 79-47 victory in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Gators advance to the third round where they’ll face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday, March 24 at 6:10 PM.

Florida Gators

The Demons gave the Gators all they had for the first 20 minutes, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough. Northwestern State employed a line-change strategy that kept the Gators on their toes early and kept the game close. But Florida’s talent and ability to withstand Northwestern State’s 10-man rotation, helped the Gators pull away in the second half. And it was definitely a story that went that way–a tale of two halves to an extent. Florida took a 40-32 lead into the locker room at the break, but blew that wide open outscoring the Demons 39-15 in the second half.

The Gators took advantage of a shooting advantage throughout the second half. For the game, Florida made 47.5% of it’s attempts from the floor while holding Northwestern State to only 36%. Early, it appeared as if the Gators would fight for a victory like many other of the second round winners (we won’t even get into those that lost–HI GEORGETOWN!). Once Florida found it’s grove though, it was over. The Demons had no answer to the Gators second-half onslaught and Florida easily advanced.

The stars for Florida were senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young. The two combined for 34 points on 14-for-21 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds. As usual, as went Murphy, so went the Gators. The senior has scored 15 or more points in 13 games this season and Florida is 11-2 in those contests. And going one better, the Gators are 12-1 when he shoots 60% or better from the field. In that one loss (to Kansas State who bowed out of the tourney in a second-round upset), he shot exactly 60%. When he goes over that number, Florida is undefeated. So in summary, get Murphy open and let him shoot.

The Gators move on to the Gophers, who didn’t just upset UCLA on Saturday, but embarrassed the Bruins. It could be another case for getting the ball to Murphy and Young. Minnesota has only two players taller than 6’8″ on their roster and those two combine for only 20.5 minutes per game. Murphy and Young combine for 53.3. It could be another good one for the big men depending on what strategy head coach Billy Donovan employs.

On to the next round and a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Florida Gators vs. Ole Miss Rebels: SEC Championship on the Line

The Florida Gators appear to have found their rhythm. After a pedestrian finish to the 2012-13 regular season, the Gators have turned up the intensity and marched to back-to-back double-digit victories. Florida now finds itself in the SEC Tournament championship game against the Ole Miss Rebels. A win means the double–regular season and conference tourney titles.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

The 26-6 Gators are looking for win number 27, which would break a tie with the 2011-12 team for the fifth most under head coach Billy Donovan. Of the four Donovan-coached Florida teams that won more games, two won the national title, one lost in the championship game, and the other exited the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight. We don’t know how the story will end for this season’s team, but it’s safe to say they have become one of Donovan’s best.

Florida is peaking at the right time, but so is Ole Miss. The Rebels have won their last four and six of their last seven. And they’ve found a way to win the close ones. Two of their last four victories have been by four points or less.

These two teams have met once before during this season and both were ranked at the time. The Gators took a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime and held on to win 78-64. Florida’s big men were just too much for Ole Miss as senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson–one of the nation’s best scorers–did pour in 25 points, but he didn’t have much help from his teammates.

The Gators will look to contain Henderson, but may alternatively focus on the rest of the Ole Miss offense. Donovan’s Florida teams have had success in the past letting the star players of opponents be great while shutting down the rest of the roster. The first matchup between these two is one example as is the national championship game victory over Ohio State at the end of the 2006-07 season. Donovan’s plan allowed for Buckeyes star Greg Oden to dominate down low while focusing on the rest of the Buckeyes offense. While Mike Conley did add 20 points to Oden’s 25, no other starting Buckeye shot at even a 50% clip. Similar to the earlier win over the Rebels when senior forward Murphy Holloway had 15 points to go with Henderson’s 25, but did so on 5-for-16 shooting.

So don’t be surprised it Henderson gets his buckets, but the rest of the Ole Miss offense has trouble scoring. Donovan and the Gators know what talent Henderson brings and at times they may not be able to stop him, but if they can slow the rest of the Rebels roster, they could be taking a new trophy back to Gainesville.

Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: One More Win Puts Gators in SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced the SEC Tournament semifinals with ease thanks to an 80-58 win over the LSU Tigers on Friday. The Gators will face the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:00 PM on Saturday thanks to the Tide’s 58-48 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were running on all cylinders against the Tigers and showed little desire to take their foot off the pedal. Senior forward Erik Murphy had a career game and Florida shot well from the field. Add to that a defensive performance to hang your hat on and it was an easy victory for the orange and blue.

There was one Gator that would have wanted to contribute more to the team’s cause though. Senior guard Kenny Boynton has been caught in the middle of a shooting slump of epic proportions. Boynton has shot 37.6% from the field and 29.4% from behind the arc during his senior season–both career lows. The senior hasn’t reached 20 points in a game since January 2 and hasn’t shot better than 45.5% since January 26. To make matters worse, Boynton has only shot better than 37.5% once in his last seven games.

Kenny Boynton is a phenomenal player and will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Gators uniform, but we’re all sure this isn’t how he wants it to end. If the wins keep coming, the statistics don’t matter, but he surely wants to contribute on the offensive end. While his last performance against the Tide wasn’t a stellar one, it was solid enough to warrant a desire to repeat it. Boynton went 3-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, scored 13 total points, and had three assists to zero turnovers. If Boynton can do that again on Saturday, he’ll erase his 1-for-7 performance against LSU.

Head coach Billy Donovan has turned up the intensity on his team. Practices have been harder and Donovan has pushed his team to play to the talent he knows it possesses. It worked on Friday and should again on Saturday. With each SEC Tournament win, the Gators gain momentum for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Another big game is needed against Bama.

Florida Gators 80 – LSU Tigers 58: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Semifinals with Victory

There are big wins. There are convincing wins. And then there are downright beat downs behind the woodshed. The top-seeded Florida Gators showed little mercy on Friday defeating the LSU Tigers 80-58 in the orange and blue’s opening 2013 SEC Tournament game. The Gators advanced to the conference tourney semifinalists with the victory.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

The win was the 25th win of the season for Florida. It is the third-straight season with 25 or more victories for the Gators and the eighth overall for head coach Billy Donovan. Donovan has been adding to his victory total for many years at Florida and we hope he continues to do so for many more to come.

Senior forward Erik Murphy was the Gators star in the win. Murphy had a career-high 27 points and completed his third double-double by adding 12 rebounds. The senior started hot and never cooled down. Murphy shot 11-for-15 from the field and made five of his seven three-point attempts. Over the course of his senior season–and it was no different on Friday–Murphy has been a matchup problem for opposing teams and few have found ways to slow him.

Junior guard Scottie Wilbekin added 16 points–one off matching a season-high–and junior center Patric Young and freshman guard Michael Frazier II joined him with double-digit scoring efforts. Perhaps the only down note of the game was the play of senior guard Kenny Boynton. Boynton continued his shooting slump, managing only a 1-for-7 day.

The Gators are up again at 1:00 PM on Saturday. Florida will face either the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gators played both recently, losing 64-58 to the Vols in Knoxville, TN and beating the Tide 64-52 at home.

Kentucky Wildcats 61 – Florida Gators 57: Gators Fall In Regular Season Finale

The Florida Gators will head into the SEC Tournament without the momentum they were hoping to carry. After two big conference wins, the Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 61-57 in the regular season finale. The loss drops Florida to 24-6 (14-4 SEC), while Kentucky improves to 21-11 (11-6 SEC). The Gators hadn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and will have to wait another season for a chance to break that streak.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

The game was one of streaks as both teams jumped out to big leads only to have the other fight back. It was good for Florida at times and bad at others. Unfortunately, the last of the bad times encompassed the final 7:36 of the game. With that much time left on the clock, the Gators went up 57-50. Florida would not score again. Yes, you read that correctly. The Gators would not add a single point to their total for the final seven minutes and 36 seconds. In that time, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close out the regular season on the SEC champs.

The Gators shot better than the Wildcats across the board, but it wasn’t enough. Senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but they weren’t helped by the other Florida starters. Senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-24 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line. None of the three were able to get into double digits in scoring.

While Kentucky didn’t shoot as well as Florida overall, they did when it mattered. The Wildcats only went 13-for-22 from the free-throw line on the day, but were 3-for-4 in the final 25 seconds. The Gators struggled to find a good look at the basket as time was running down as Kentucky kept up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow Florida anything easy.

The Gators regular season has to be considered a successful one, but ultimately it’s all about how you finish. Florida is 3-3 over the final six games and all three losses came to unranked opponents. While the Gators do have quality wins, the selection committee will be taking recent play into account and the end to the season will hurt Florida when it comes to seeding.

Florida has a chance to shake off the Kentucky loss before the SEC Tournament, but that will be here soon. The Gators should find themselves in the conference tourney title game, but they have to get there first. The regular season is over. It’s tourney time. There’s no excuse for losses of any kind.

Florida Gators 66 – Vanderbilt Commodores 40: Gators Win SEC Title, Finish Unbeaten At Home

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team claimed the program’s fourth outright SEC title on Wednesday night with a 66-40 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores. A conference title was the ultimate goal, but the Gators also capped off an undefeated home record with the win. The last Florida team to do that–2006-07–just happened to win a national championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators put the game out of reach early, jumping out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half. The outcome was never truly in question after it took the Commodores nearly 16 minutes of game time to reach the double-digit mark in points. Florida would go on to lead by 10 at the half and extend that lead in the second frame.

In addition to the SEC title and undefeated home record, Florida claimed the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Gators still travel to Kentucky to close out the regular season against the Wildcats, but their place in the SEC tourney is already known.

The three Florida seniors went out on a high note. Guard Kenny Boynton led all Gators scorers with 15 points while forward Erik Murphy added 10 and guard Mike Rosario had five. It surely was a great feeling for all three to get a big victory and win a regular season conference title in their last game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida still has that final hurdle–the regular season finale at Kentucky–to get over before thinking too much about the tournaments ahead, but they will both be here soon enough. This is the time of season to stay focused and build on wins like Wednesday night’s.

Congrats to the Gators and the senior class on an impressive victory.

Plenty On the Line In The Florida Gators Final Home Game

The No. 11/9 Florida Gators men’s basketball team will play its final home game of the 2012-13 regular season on Wednesday. The Gators will host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a matchup with a number of storylines.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

First and foremost, Florida can secure the program’s fourth outright SEC title with a victory over Vandy. Not only will it be the fourth for the program, it will be the second for the current seniors. If the Gators get the win, the seniors will be the first class to ever win two outright conference titles.

Not far behind, but less meaningful if we’re being honest, is a chance to go undefeated at home during the regular season for the first time since 2006-07. Not losing at home doesn’t mean much toward the Gators chances at a national championship, but the last Florida team to do so just happened to take home the trophy. Being unbeatable in your own building is a matter of pride though. It’s not something Florida will want to slip out of their hands in their final game. And more wins never hurt.

Finally, it’s senior night for two that have been there since the beginning—guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy—and one that has raised his level of playing during his final season—guard Mike Rosario. While Boynton won’t do it in this game, he still has an outside shot at becoming the Gators all-time leading scorer. Not bad for a player many expected to be long gone at this point.

For Boynton, it’s a chance to go out on a high note; to play his final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and leave the building with another victory. With 150 points to go and a career-low scoring average of 12.5 points per game, it seems unlikely Boynton will break the record, but he’s playing for more. Boynton joined the Gators following the back-to-back NIT seasons (ugh) and hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since. Two Elite Eight appearances is nothing to scoff at, but he’ll want more this final season.

Murphy has developed into a threat from anywhere on the court. After nearly ruining his college basketball career, Murphy was allowed to remain in the program by head coach Billy Donovan and became the player he is today. Vital to Florida’s success, Murphy has career highs across the board this season—minutes, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, scoring average, you name it.

Then there’s Rosario. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario was expected to bring his heightened scoring ability to the Gators. After a rocky first two seasons (he sat out after transferring), Rosario seems to have brought it together. He hasn’t reached the scoring numbers he put up while with the Scarlet Knights, but Rosario is the Gators leading scorer and a danger to opposing defenses when he has the ball.

Wednesday won’t mark the end of the 2012-13 season, but it does mean more than just another game to the Gators. Florida wants that SEC title. The Gators want to hold on to that unblemished home record. And the seniors want to walk out of the O’Connell Center victorious.

Florida Gators 64 – Alabama Crimson Tide 52: Strong Finish Leads To Gators Win

There was a fast start, an almost dramatic slowdown, an impressive comeback and a convincing finish. All of those described the Florida Gators 64-52 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at one point or another during the game. Florida improved to 23-5 (13-3 SEC) on the season, while Alabama fell to 19-10 (11-5 SEC). With the Gators eyeing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the loss will make it harder for the Tide to even get in.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were down by three at the break and by as much as eight in the second half. It looked like it was gearing up to be quite the let down when Florida kicked it into the next gear and went on a 15-0 run to but Bama away. That run put the Gators up by nine and they would go on to win by 12. It was another double-digit SEC win, but was also a game that easily could have gone the other way. There were definitely times when you could almost feel the game slipping away, but–as opposed to recent losses–the Gators composed themselves, fought back and came away with the victory.

Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II returned, but they were limited. The pair gave Florida 17 minutes, no points and just one lone rebound, but their appearances were enough to spark the rest of the team. Senior forward Erik Murphy led the way with 15 points, senior guard Kenny Boynton had 13, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin had 11 and junior forward Casey Prather added 10 off the bench.

One of the more telling stats of the day was the number of times the Gators allowed the Tide to go to the charity stripe. Alabama attempted just 10 free throws during the game as Florida only fouled the Tide nine times. The fact that the Tide could only connect on four of those 10 attempts hurt their chances even more. On the other end, the Gators hit 22 of their 26 attempts. It was an impressive display from Florida and made up for the fact that the Gators were only 2-of-13 from three-point land.

The win pushes Florida into the final week of the season on a high note. The Gators only have two games remaining–March 6 against the Vanderbilt Commodores and March 9 at the Kentucky Wildcats–and will look for big victories in both. Florida hasn’t faced Vandy yet this season, but defeated Kentucky by 17 in the first matchup between the two. With two more convincing wins, the Gators could be looking at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed come tourney selection time.