Murphy planted uncomfortably on his knee during Wednesday’s practice, but the MRI revealed no significant problems. He wore a bulky brace on it during Friday’s game.
“I wanted to be cautious coming into the tournament, but it’s fine,” he said.
This could be the moment that gets Florida (25-6) rolling again after slumping through the final six games of the regular season at 3-3. The Gators shot 50.9 percent from the field — even with Boynton and Mike Rosario combining to go 3-for-14 — and outrebounded LSU 47-27. They held the Tigers (19-12) 25.9 percent shooting in the second half and 33.3 percent overall.
The Tigers stayed with Florida early, trailing by one with 8:56 left in the first half. The Gators broke away with a 25-9 going into halftime, capped by Michael Frazier’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
UF followed by outscoring the Tigers 17-6 in the first seven minutes of the second half to lead 60-34. The overall dominance was reminiscent of how the Gators played earlier in the season, when they won 12 of their first 19 games by at least 20 points.
“It was definitely a step in the right direction,” center Patric Young said. “Hopefully we can build on that and do an even better job the next game.”
UF guard Scottie Wilbekin scored 16 points, his most in a game since January, on 6-for-8 shooting and had three assists. Young had 10 points and six rebounds, while Frazier added 11 and five.
Boynton managed just two points, but had seven assists and was strong defensively.
Charles Carmouche led LSU with 14 points and was his team’s only player to score more than eight.
No Gator played more than 27 minutes, which should help Florida stay fresh for the possibility of playing three games in three days. If UF gets past the Crimson Tide, it will play in the championship game Sunday (1 p.m., ABC).
Alabama reached the semifinals by beating Tennessee 58-48 after the Gators’ game. The Crimson Tide appears to be barely outside the NCAA tournament field at this point and could break into it by beating Florida.
The upset hopes are reasonable. When the teams played in Gainesville two weeks ago, Alabama led the Gators by eight with 11:04 remaining, but Florida closed with a 27-7 run to win 64-52.