Florida struggled to contain Northwestern State's fast-paced offense in the first half of its Friday opener in the NCAA Tournament. Then the second half happened.
Defense wins championships, as the adage goes. Florida's 79-47 win over Northwestern State in the round of 64 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Friday proved that the Gators have one that's at least in the championship conversation.
Florida led 40-32 at halftime over the Demons, who led the nation in possessions and points per game entering Friday, but pumped the brakes on their high-octane offense in the second half, allowing just 15 points after intermission.
Florida's offense stayed steady, though, putting up 39 points and opening up a 28-point lead with a 28-6 run that spanned nearly 14 minutes of the second half. All five Florida starters scored at least eight points, and all but Mike Rosario (eight points) scored at least 11. Erik Murphy had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Patric Young added 16 points and eight rebounds despite missing six of 10 free throws.
But four of Young's misses from the line ended up back with Florida, testament to their rebounding domination on the day: The Gators corralled 38 rebounds to Northwestern State's 20, and limited the Demons to just three offensive rebounds on 32 misses, a microscopic 9.38 percent offensive rebounding percentage.
This was a threshing, and one in which Rosario was 3-for-9 for the field in limited action while Michael Frazier missed all four of his shots. Florida left plenty on the table as a team, making just seven of their 21 threes on the night and missing nine of 23 free throws.
And yet the Gators still scored 1.27 points per possession, and held Northwestern State to 0.74 PPP, a 0.53 PPP margin among the best Florida has put up in 2012-13. Discount Northwestern State as one of the poorer NCAA Tournament teams if you want, but don't discredit Florida's domination on this day.