Murphy putting Tennessee behind him

The record against the Tennessee Vols over the last several years has been abysmal for the Florida basketball team. A loss on Tuesday didn't help anything and created a tighter race for the finish to be the top team in the SEC. The Gators are just now starting to get healthy and ready to put that game behind them.

Florida has won two national titles and been to four Elite Eight games since the 2005 season, but has only beaten Tennessee one time in Knoxville in that time frame. They also have lost to Tennessee in most year at home, it is a team that has Florida's number.

It happened again, albeit this time Florida came into the game woefully undermanned due to injuries and suffered more against a lengthy and strong Tennessee presence inside.

Having heard that Florida has had all those troubles with Tennessee and knowing that his team was short-handed for the contest didn't ease the mind of senior forward Erik Murphy on Thursday.

"No. Not at all," he responded when asked if all of the minutiae mattered to him about the contest. "That probably makes me feel worse. That's them beating us. We kind of want to beat them. But it happened. It's in the past. We can't dwell on it. Can't change what happened. We just have to move past that and try to get better."

Murphy is excited to have a few teammates that were out for a stretch due to injuries. Junior forward Will Yeguete has missed all but one minute of the last seven games. Freshman Michael Frazier missed the Tennessee contest due to a concussion. Junior forward Casey Prather missed the end of the Tennessee game as he had to be attended to to fix some bleeding on his face.

Murphy is excited for them to be back, but knows that they have to play on despite the obstacles that are presented them.

"Obviously it's great to have those guys back," he said. "You know, it gives us back a full team, at full strength. But I think that doesn't give us any reason to expect anything out of them. Will's been out for, I don't even know how long at this point. But the guy hasn't played in a while and obviously he's going to come back, he's ready to come back, and he's going to get to where he was. But that may not be the case right away. It might take a little time. Frazier coming back, what he's able to do, his was a lot shorter. But we can't expect too much out of those guys. Everybody's got to stay on edge, continue to stay focused and do what they're doing."

Yeguete's return should help inside against a strong post presence in Alabama when the Crimson Tide come to Gainesville on Saturday. Murphy knows what healthy Yeguete is capable of, but is still cautious as to what to expect.

"Will, he's back obviously," he said. "But who knows how much he's going to be able to do right away. If he comes back and plays that's great. If he comes back and is a little limited, that's fine, too. We'll just have to do what we can. I'm not really worried. Coaches will prepare us for Alabama, and we'll figure out the game plan and execute it."

The Gators only three losses in the SEC have come in the last seven games and a lot can be attributed to the loss of Yeguete and the others. Another issue they have faced is the spotty shooting of senior guard Kenny Boynton. Boynton has always been somewhat of a streaky shooter and just like always, Murphy expects him to bounce back.

"I mean, I'm not worried about that at all," Murphy said of Boynton's shooting. "KB's a great player. I'm not worried about him turning it around. He might not be shooting it as well as he has in the past, but I think he's playing great in all other aspects of the game.

"That's something that he's worked at and he's gotten a lot better at it, and it's helping us as a team. I don't think he has to do any turning around. He's doing fine right now. His shots will fall. I trust him in that phase.

Murphy elaborated on the tasks that Boynton has stepped up his play on making his team better.

"He's been able to run the point for us," Murphy said. "He's guarding. He's rebounding more. He's putting his body in some plays. He's doing a lot of things better than he has in the past, and we're all proud of him for that. He's worked at that and it's shown."

Murphy has had a terrific season as a senior and has really developed his game. He can score from anywhere on the court, he has played tough defense, and he has played through injuries of his own to hold it down for Florida both inside and outside.

His ability to shoot is something not seen from most big men. He does it well despite an odd routine of not warming up before the game by shooting the ball like the rest of the team does. Murphy says it is just the way he has done it over the last couple of years.

"I don't know. I mean that's just my thing," he said. "We go out and we've got to be on the court an hour before the game. And that's just free shooting if you want to. And the team doesn't really warm up, we don't really start real warm-ups until the clock starts at 60:00. It runs down, Then we go inside right then. And then we come out and that's when we start like real team warm-ups. The whole season and last season, too, that's just what I do. It's my ritual."

"I'm not really superstitious. It's just a routine, I guess, I would say. I just do it, it's just something that I do."

The modest Murphy shrugged off a comment about him being the SEC's leading three-point shot maker and because of this routine of his. He has made 57 on the year and is shooting an eye opening 46.7 from long distance.

"I don't know, it's just my ritual," he said. That's just one of my things, my routines."

Combating through the two losses in the last three games after being short-handed, Murphy says this team, has a lot of fight in it. Those games could have been won anyway, and he sees the end of the season looking better with the way this team has looked overall. He puts that outlook and toughness on Gator head coach Billy Donovan.

"I think we're a physically, mentally tough team," he said. "It's something that's part of coach's whole mentality that seeps into the team. I think he brings that to us and we embrace that… just being tough mentally and physically."

The game with Alabama is a big one for Florida. The Gators stand at 12-3 in the conference and are just one game ahead of Alabama and Kentucky at 11-4, and they play both heading down the stretch.

"It's obviously a big game," Murphy said. "Every game's a big game, though, at this point. We've got to come out and try to win every game. It would be nice to end the SEC regular season with an SEC regular-season championship. That's not something we can really do without winning. we have to stay focused on that task, which is the next game. and then after Alabama is the next game after that. Right now we're just focused on Alabama.

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