Florda continues trend of blowout victories

One of the most remarkable attributes of this season's Florida team has been its ability to explode past opponents.Entering Friday's Round-of-64 clash against Northwestern State, the Gators had played 33 games this season, with a remarkable 27 of those — including Florida's 26 wins — decided by double-digits. And that trend continued in the Gators' 79-47 victory over Demons in a 3-14 matchup.

Florida (27-7) led by eight points with 13:13 remaining before going on a 19-1 run to turn a single-digit game into yet another Gator runaway at 68-42.

"We just try to extend our leads," said Gator forward Will Yeguete. "We try to take 10 points and turn it into 20."

Or eight points and turn it into 26 in a little over six and a half minutes of game time.

"It's just like any given moment we're able to let it loose," Patric Young added.

The Demons ( actually came out hot in the first half, making 54.2 percent of their shots and 3-of-7 three-pointers (54.2 percent). But Florida still took an eight-point advantage into the locker room, aided largely by a 10-point advantage in second-chance points. In fact, Florida grabbed exactly half of the available offensive rebounds in the first half, with the Gators pulling down nine offensive boards to the Demons' nine defensive rebounds. The Gators were also dominant in the paint, getting 26 of their 40 points on the inside, led by 11 from Erik Murphy and nine from Young.

"We were getting everything we wanted offensively," Young said.

But the Gators were somewhat surprised by the speed Northwestern State played at. Young said that the Demons got up and down the court like SEC foes Arkansas and Missouri, and Florida head coach Billy Donovan said it took the Gators a bit to adjust. Donovan said that the Demons ran hard and spaced the court, creating open-floor opportunities, like when Northwestern State's Jalan West pulled up for a three-pointer at full speed on a break, catching Scottie Wilbekin flat-footed.

"It was almost like this is a little bit different than what we have gone against before, with the way they did it," Donovan said.

Surprise or no, the players conceded that they had to buckle down defensively. The Gators aim for a Points-Per-Possession mark of around 0.8, and their season-long mark of 0.857 — per KenPom — ranks third nationally. With the Demons sitting at better than 1.032, it was time to put the clamps on.

"So the main thing was just coming out with energy," said Florida guard Kenny Boynton.

The Gators did just that. In the second half, Florida held Northwestern State to a 5-for-26 shooting performance and a lowly 0.441 points per possession.

"I felt really good about the way we ended the game," Young said. "We didn't start off executing on defense the way that we should have."

At the same time, Florida maintained a lofty PPP of its own, while destroying the Demons in the paint with 44 points on the interior, and on the glass, where the Gators held a 43-26 rebounding lead. For the game, the Gators grabbed just four fewer offensive boards than the Demons had defensive rebounds.

"Our coaches did a really good job of scouting," Young said. "They knew that they were not a very good defensive rebounding team. So they stressed that. We need to go to the glass.

"It's just a challenge, because it raises the bar of expectations that [the coaches] have on you," Young said. "It's that they are not a good defensive rebounding team, so I expect you to guys to be relentless and chase balls and win on the glass."

Murphy and Young combined to score 34 points and grab 17 rebounds. Boynton scored 11, including his 2000th point as a Florida Gator.

"It's a great accomplishment," Boynton said. "But we were in a struggle in the first half. Luckily we still got the win with it."

Wilbekin chipped in another 11 to round out the four Gators in double figures.

DeQuan Hicks led Northwestern State with 12 points and eight boards.

The Gators will move on to play Minnesota on Sunday. The Gophers were big winners over UCLA 83-63

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