Playing without Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather, No. 10 Florida made a definitive statement to those that have kept their name out of the SEC title race with a 74-56 win over No. 22 Wisconsin.
Erik Murphy was the star for the Gators. The 6-foot-10 power forward finished with 24 points — including 16 in the first half — while making all 10 of his field goal attempts from the field. Murphy hit a pair of threes and a couple of short jumpers, but at least half of his fields goals came in the paint, including a trio of beautiful jump hooks. Once known as strictly a stretch four, Murphy has clearly added to his game. He’s a serious threat on the offensive end of the floor.
Mike Rosario was the other guy that really impressed for the Gators, as he looked like the guy that starred for Rutgers two seasons ago. He finished with 15 points and four assists, including a pair of spectacular alley-oops to Patric Young and a number of really nice drives to the rim. Wilbekin, who was expected to be Florida’s starting point guard this season, will be back at some point, but if Rosario can score like this consistently, it will give Billy Donovan a very dangerous pair of scorers in his back court.
Florida put this game away pretty early. They jumped out to a big first half lead, in large part due to the fact that they hit 18 of their first 22 fields goals. Florida was on fire, there’s no question about that, but they weren’t hitting tough, contested shots for the first 20 minutes. They were getting layups and wide-open threes.
People are going to be quick to point out the fact that Wisconsin is without Josh Gasser and blame this performance on his absence — he tore his ACL in practice — and it’s inarguable that losing a guy that started 66 games in his first two seasons will hurt. But the Badgers aren’t going to go anywhere this season if they continue to defend the way they did Tuesday night, and that cannot all be blamed on an injured point guard.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.