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.