After an uncomfortable first 20 minutes of basketball, Florida pulled away in the second half to take down a feisty Northwestern State team 79-47.
If you're not familiar, NSU is the highest-scoring team in the country thanks to a crazy, breakneck style. The team rotates two five-man shifts every few minutes, not unlike a hockey team, and attempts to play at a breakneck pace throughout. For the first half, it largely worked. The Demons never took a lead, but they goaded Florida into playing at their speed. Every time it looked like the Gators would take control, Northwestern State would get some steals and make some shots to pull closer. UF may have had an eight-point edge at the half, but that score was not representative of the way the game went.
In the second half, Florida settled down and played its game better. It stepped up its defense, holding Northwestern State to just five field goals and 15 total points after intermission. Florida's size was its biggest advantage, as its forwards alone outrebounded the entire NSU team. The Gators really began pulling away in the final 13 minutes of the game, outscoring the Demons 30-6 over that span.
Erik Murphy led all scorers with 18, while Patric Young had 16 for the Gators. They also had eight rebounds apiece. Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton put in 11 apiece, while Will Yeguete and Casey Prather had six rebounds each. DeQuan Hicks was the only NSU Demon to reach double figures with 12. Florida shot 49% of the field while holding Northwestern State to just 36%.
The Gators will play the winner of UCLA and Minnesota on Sunday.