AUSTIN, Texas — Erik Murphy had 18 points to lead four Florida players in double figures and the Gators shut down the NCAA’s highest-scoring team Friday night, beating Northwestern State 79-47 in the second round of the South Regional.
No. 3 seed Florida (27-7) turned this one into a rout with a 19-1 run in the second half and held the 14th-seeded Demons (23-9) to their fewest points this season — 34 below their average.
Patric Young had 16 points and nine rebounds for Florida (27-7). Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin both scored 11.
DeQuan Hicks had 12 points for the Demons, who upset Iowa as the No. 14 seed in their last NCAA tournament seven years ago. They couldn’t repeat that feat against the Gators, who lost in the regional finals each of the past two seasons.
Murphy and Boynton are seniors who arrived at Florida not long after the Gators had won consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007. They have been to the NCAA tournament each of their four seasons, but the last two ended with losses in the regional finals.
This is the last chance for Murphy and Boynton to win a championship of their own, and they’re off to a good start — even after Boynton missed most of the first half.
Florida plays Minnesota or UCLA on Sunday.
Boynton played only 8 minutes before halftime after two early fouls, but Florida kept going while he sat on the bench.
On his only shot before halftime, Boynton hit a 3-pointer for a 28-21 lead with 9:13 left. That was their biggest lead at that point, but less than a half-minute later Boynton was out for the rest of the half.
Florida added a point to their lead by the break, then the SEC regular-season champions put the game away with the big run that started when Murphy buried a 3-pointer from the right corner right in front of the Gators bench with 12:26 left.
Even with all of the Northwestern State’s usual mass substitutions, nine of the 10 Demons played more minutes than Boyton did in the first half. The other matched Boyton’s 8 minutes.
The Demons made wholesale changes five times in the first 15 minutes. Four times it was all five players switching out.
When there was a 5-for-4 switch with 11:14 left in the first half, Hicks was the only one to stay on the court.
Soon after play resumed, Hicks scored and then followed a Florida miss with a pass to O.J. Evans to get the Demons within 23-21. They never got closer after that.
Wilkbekin made a turnaround jumper from near the free-throw line, then Hicks had a bounce pass to Evans, who missed the layup. Then Boynton made his 3-pointer from the right wing.
Both teams shot well before halftime, Northwestern hitting 54 percent of theirs (13 of 24) and Florida 52 percent (17 of 33).
Northwestern, which got into the NCAA tournament after beating 27-win Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference tournament championship game, couldn’t get anything to fall after halftime. They made only five of 26 shots.
The only time this season the Demons scored fewer points was 55, a win in one of their other Southland tourney games.
Florida’s defensive dominance really shouldn’t have been any surprise. The Gators came in the game third nationally allowing only 53.7 points a game while outscoring teams by 18 a game. The most points they gave up was 80 to Arkansas, and nobody else scored more than 67.