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Northwestern State (23-8) vs. Florida (26-7)



Friday, March 22, 7:27 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Erwin Center (16,734) -- Austin, Texas. Television: truTV. NCAA Tournament Record: Northwestern State 2-2, Florida 35-15. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: Second-round action in the South Region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament continues on Friday night, as the third-seeded Florida Gators tangle with the 14th-seeded Northwestern State Demons at the Erwin Center.

The survivor will advance to Sunday's third round to play the winner of sixth- seeded UCLA and 11th-seeded Minnesota.

Northwestern State is celebrating its 100th year of men's basketball with its third trip to the NCAA Tournament after finishing the season with a 23-8 overall record and a 15-3 mark in the Southland Conference, capped off by a 68-66 win over Stephen F. Austin the conference tournament championship game. The Demons last made the tournament field in 2006 when, also as a No. 14 seed, they shocked No. 3 seed Iowa (64-63) to advance to the Round of 32.

Florida (26-7) earned the SEC regular-season title outright, and while it lost the SEC Tournament championship game to Ole Miss (66-63), its entire body of work was clearly the most impressive of any team in the under performing SEC, with a resume' that included strong non-conference wins over Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee and Marquette. Under head coach Billy Donovan, the Gators have been one of the tournament's most impressive teams, having qualified for the event 13 times in his 17-year tenure, while having advanced to at least the Elite Eight in four of the past seven seasons. Florida won a pair of national titles in 2006 and 2007.

This matchup marks the first-ever time these two squads have faced each other on the hardwood.

The Demons' calling card has been their high-flying offense, which shoots 46 percent from the field for 81.0 ppg -- ranking first in all of Division I. Despite making only two starts this season, DeQuan Hicks is the team's top scoring threat, pouring in 14.1 ppg on nearly 59 percent from the field while adding 5.8 rpg for good measure. Shamir Davis scores 12.5 ppg, James Hulbin nets 12.1 ppg and hauls in 5.9 rpg, while Jalen West puts up 10.3 ppg and is the team leader in both assists (5.2 pg) and steals (74). With Northwestern State's high-tempo offense comes vulnerability at the defensive end of the floor however, as it allows opposing teams to score 71.2 ppg.

The Gators are fortunate to have a strong offensive attack, scoring 71.6 ppg, but the biggest reason for their tremendous success this season has been their outstanding scoring defense, which allows a mere 53.7 ppg (third in the nation), and they've yielded 50 points or fewer 12 times. Erik Murphy nets 12.6 ppg on nearly 53 percent from the field while adding 5.5 rpg, and he was named to the All-SEC First Team. Right on Murphy's heels for the scoring lead are Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, who both pour in 12.3 ppg, and the three top scorers for UF have combined for 186 3-pointers. Patric Young (10.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.7) and Scottie Wilbekin (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 spg) round out the starting five, and both were named to the SEC's All-Defensive Team.

Northwestern State can certainly light up the scoreboard, but it hasn't faced a defensive team nearly as stingy as Florida, so the Demons are in for a rude awakening if they think their usually-potent style will be successful against such a gritty squad. Expect the Gators to have a relatively easy time of it in this one as they advance to the third round.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 77, Northwestern State 63

03/22 10:32:15 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
WIN 3
CAR 1
Final
KAN 1
SFG 7
8:07pm Tonight
KAN
SFG
 
Final
MIA 90
HOU 85
Final
MIN 107
IND 89
Final
OKC 91
UTA 105
Final
DEN 75
POR 93
Final
LAL 108
PHO 114
Final
GSW 125
LAC 107
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
HOU
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
BRK
 
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
WAS
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CLE
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIL
MIN
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
ATL
 
10:00pm Tonight
LAL
POR
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
PHO
 
Final
LALAF 55
ARKST 40
Final
NJD 3
NYR 4
Final
BOS 5
SJS 3
Final
NYI 2
TOR 5
Final
MON 2
DET 1
Final
NAS 4
ARI 3
Final
WIN 3
CAR 1
Final
CHI 4
PHI 0
Final
DAL 6
VAN 3
Final
COL 3
FLA 4
Final
CAL 1
TAM 2
7:00pm Tonight
OTT
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
PIT
PHI
 
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
WAS
 
10:30pm Tonight
ANA
BUF