The No. 10 Florida Gators' 74-56 win over the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers Wednesday night was never really in doubt.
Billy Donovan's team outscored, outran, outexecuted and really just outplayed Bo Ryan's group. Wisconsin must play a very specific style in order to win, relying on its aggressive man-to-man defense to shut down opposing offenses.
Florida didn't allow that to happen. Using their own pressure on the defensive end in the first half, the Gators were able to take a 12-point lead into halftime. Face-up forward Erik Murphy scored 16 of his 24 total points on 7-of-7 first-half shooting to put his team ahead at the break.
The second half wasn't much different. Florida used a 2-3 zone to curtail Wisconsin's offense, and the Badgers didn't really know how to handle it. Without a point guard to penetrate at the top, the Badgers couldn't open up passing lanes at all.
It was obvious that the Badgers missed Josh Gasser the entire night. Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren combined for only 18 points, something that cannot happen if the Badgers hope to score enough points to win games. Mike Bruesewitz and touted freshman Sam Dekker contributed mildly off the bench, but not nearly enough.
Add in 10 turnovers, and it was a night to forget for Ryan's team. The Gators won the rebounding battle, 39 to 21, and Murphy received double-digit-scoring support from Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton.
Winning this one has to feel good for the Gators. They're a definite contender in the SEC, especially if Murphy plays like this on a consistent basis. Donovan is one of the nation's most underrated coaches, and he has the athletes to run his full-court press this year.
Let's recap this one further with some Twitter reaction and hand out a player-of-the-game award.
ESPN's Tom Lea made this observation during the first half:
Brust doesn't even look comfortable in man-to-man situations against Rosario. He's doing whatever he wants. #Badgers— Tom Lea (@ESPNTomLea) November 15, 2012
The entire Badgers team could be substituted in there. Florida's athleticism was clearly giving Wisconsin issues.
CBS Sports made what was probably an accurate observation at halftime:
CBS' Jon Rothstein loves Florida's prospects moving forward:
LOVE this Florida team down the road if they can get Scottie WIlbekin back and on the same page with Billy D. Great balance. Grizzled.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 15, 2012
FightinGators.com reporter Cody Jones showed that the first half wasn't all positive for Billy Donovan's team:
#Gators up 43-31 at halftime. Florida shot 75%, led by Murphy w/ 16 pts and Rosario w/ 11. However, 12 turnovers for Florida.— Cody Jones (@CJonesScout) November 15, 2012
247sports.com writer Kyle Heikkinen takes a look at Ryan Evans' play for the Badgers:
Ryan Evans has been terrible on both ends today for Wisconsin. Unlike him defensively. #Badgers— Kyle Heikkinen (@Kyle_Heikkinen) November 15, 2012
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jim Polzin pointed out the Badgers' rebounding woes:
Florida has more offensive rebounds (7) than UW has defensive rebounds (6). Florida leads 31-16 overall on glass.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) November 15, 2012
Player of the Game: Erik Murphy
Murphy played a flawless game. Not only did he go 10-of-10 from the field to pace the Gators' offense, but he hauled in eight rebounds.
Having a player like this gives a lineup so much versatility. Murphy scored from the block, hit from mid-range and also nailed a couple of three-point shots.
Because of his ability to face up, he pulls bigger defenders out of the paint. That allows Rosario to penetrate, Patric Young to operate more freely and Boynton to get into the lane as well.
Forcing players to respect his shot, which Murphy did, completely changes Florida's team. He's a matchup nightmare, and his performance Wednesday night certainly opened some eyes across the country.
The 1-1 Badgers will try to bounce back against Cornell on Sunday night, while 2-0 Florida plays Middle Tennessee that afternoon.
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