No. 3 Florida pulls away in second half to beat No. 14 Northwestern State

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As Georgetown was falling victim to Florida Gulf Coast in Philadelphia, the early struggles of No. 3 Florida were less widely broadcast. No need to worry, though, as Billy Donovan’s Gators pulled away quickly in the second half to beat No. 14 Northwestern State, 79-47, Friday night in Austin, Texas.

Against an up-tempo and high-scoring Northwestern State team, Florida was unable to slam the door in the first half and held an eight-point lead at halftime. In the second, the Gators were more able to speed Northwestern State up past its comfort level and force turnovers while locking down on defense and hitting shots itself.

On the night, Florida forced 15 turnovers and held the Demons to 36 percent shooting, including 3-of-16 from behind the arc. Four players scored in double figures for Florida, led by Erik Murphy with 18 points. Patric Young added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Florida now moves on to play the winner of UCLA-Minnesota, which tipped off Friday night around 10:00 p.m. ET.

The biggest key for Florida, regardless of who they meet in the next round, will be their ability to close out games down the stretch. Even in the SEC tournament championship game against Ole Miss, Florida led by 12 points at halftime but ended up losing to Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels. Ole Miss beat Wisconsin Friday to advance to the Round of 32.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.


AP Poll: Syracuse, Xavier big winners in college basketball rankings

(Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP)
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The new college basketball AP Poll is out, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you that Syracuse and Xavier are the big winners.

The Orange steamrolled through a good Battle 4 Atlantis field, while Xavier capped a dominating performance in the Advocare Invitational with a 29-point win over Dayton. It should be no surprise that they are where they are.

[MORE RANKINGS: NBCSports.com top 25 | Coaches Poll]

It is a bit surprising, however, that both Texas A&M and Providence made it into the polls with a loss this week. They both deserve to be there, I just wasn’t sure they were both going to be.

Anyway, here is the full poll:

1. Kentucky (59 first place votes)
2. Maryland (4)
3. Michigan State (2)
4. Kansas
5. Iowa State
6. Oklahoma
7. Duke
8. Villanova
9. North Carolina
10. Virginia
11. Purdue
12. Xavier
13. Gonzaga
14. Syracuse
15. Oregon
16. Vanderbilt
17. Cincinnati
18. Texas A&M
19. Arizona
20. West Virginia
21. Miami
22. SMU
23. Providence
24. Louisville
25. Baylor

NEW THIS WEEK: Syracuse, West Virginia, SMU, Providence, Louisville

DROPPED OUT: Indiana, Cal, UConn, LSU, Wichita State