Murphy Changes the Gators

After a double-digit road loss, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury had one person on Florida to blame. It wasn't any of the three Gators guards or center Patric Young. He pointed the finger at power forward Erik Murphy, who drained four three-pointers and led the Florida offense. The starter that came into the season with the least amount of hype is the one giving opponents the most headaches.

"To me, the key to their team is Murphy," Rick Stansbury said. "He's the guy that has changed their team in every way. He's playing with a lot of confidence, too. He's not even close to the same player he was. Last year, he's on this roster, he's no factor. Right now, shoot, he's the one guy that changes that whole team totally."

That's the design Billy Donovan expected to have on offense this year. It has been a while since the Gators have put a shooting threat at the power forward position, and with it opening up the floor, the Florida guards have been able to hit more shots and have more open lanes to take the ball to the basket.

Teams can't ignore what Murphy has done behind the three-point line. He is shooting 48.5% from deep, causing teams to find him no matter where he is on the floor.

"He definitely brings a different element because he has great size and can shoot the ball," Donovan said. "I really think he's one of the better three-point shooters on our team. He's confident in that, and I'm confident in him shooting the ball."

Murphy has found ways to sneak open and shoot the three pointer, but teams are also forced to respect his creative post game. Murphy uses the up-and-under move to finish against bigger post players.

When he steps outside, he's one of the best three-point shooters on the team. The obvious comparison for Murphy is to former Florida and current San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner. Given the choice between the two of them in a three-point shooting contest, Donovan actually said he would side with Murphy.

"Murphy may be better, a better shooter, at this point in time with him as a junior and when Matt Bonner was a junior," Donovan said. "I'm not sure Bonner wants to hear that, but that's okay."

The junior forward credits it to being more aggressive on the court this year. He's not afraid to shoot more often, and Donovan actually said there were "three or four" more shots that Murphy could've taken against Mississippi State.

"His biggest problem is when the ball finds him quickly, sometimes he's got to get himself ready to shoot," Donovan said about Erik Murphy. "I thought there were times he could've taken three or four shots in the first half (against Mississippi State) that he passed up because he wasn't ready to shoot, but we need him ready to shoot."

Murphy even gives the Gators better defense than expected. He's not a leaper but leads the Gators with 1.3 blocks per game.

"He gives them some length defensively, and offensively, so skilled," Stansbury said. "He stretches it out. All he does it make it easier for those perimeter guys driving that basketball. Now all of a sudden, you've got Murphy stretched out and he's shooting that basketball. And he's just now coming on."

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