Loss to Michigan ‘really tough’ ending for Florida Gators’ three seniors

Erik Murphy never looked up.

Sitting at his locker after Florida’s loss, Murphy seemed to be fighting back tears as he mumbled to reporters. He fielded questions about losing in the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season and about playing the worst game of his life in his final chance.

Although Sunday’s 79-59 loss to Michigan in the Elite Eight also ended the careers of seniors Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, Murphy was clearly the most visibly affected.

“I know he’s trying and he’s giving his best effort,” junior Patric Young said, fielding questions a few feet away as Murphy continued to stare at the carpet. “I don’t know whether it was confidence or nerves or the pressure, but I just feel terrible for the guy.”

Murphy finished with zero points on 0-for-11 shooting, the first time he has been held scoreless since March 26, 2011. He hadn’t shot worse than 27.3 percent in a game this season.

Murphy entered shooting a blistering 45.9 percent from beyond the arc, but he missed both of his attempts from outside.

Murphy also struggled in UF’s win against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, scoring only four points on 2-of-7 shooting. Murphy battled the flu early in the week and missed practice Tuesday, but he said he was 100 percent healthy Sunday.

“I feel bad for him, being a senior, considering what he’s done throughout his career,” coach Billy Donovan said.

After coming off the bench during his first two seasons, Murphy emerged as Florida’s leading scorer during his senior year. Donovan also praised Murphy’s personal growth following an arrest on charges of third-degree felony burglary a few weeks after his sophomore season.

Murphy was unable to put his career in perspective Sunday.

“I’ll think about that after this sets in,” Murphy said.

Rosario and Boynton shared Murphy’s disappointment. They, too, would be ending their careers without a trip to the Final Four.

Boynton scored 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He finished his career as Florida’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,033 points. He played in every game during his four-year career, starting all but three.

Boynton fielded questions as he normally would after the game, calmly and professionally answering every one.

“I feel the loss, I’m just not showing it,” Boynton said. “I don’t regret anything. … I wish I could do it all over again.”

After his teams finished a combined 26-38 during his two seasons at Rutgers, Rosario looked back fondly on his two trips to the Elite Eight.

Rosario didn’t play many significant minutes during his first season at Florida, but his 30 minutes in UF’s final game were more than all but Boynton. He scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting and was named to the South Region All-Tournament team.

“All of the ups and downs I’ve been through personally here, this season was a special season for me,” Rosario said. “I’m at a loss for words.”

Donovan thought more of his seniors than himself when asked about the pain of making three straight Elite Eights without advancing to the Final Four. Donovan has won two national titles and reached three Final Fours. Murphy, Boynton and Rosario leave with zero and zero.

“Those guys have really meant a lot to this program,” Young said. “They really fought hard. Blood, sweat, tears, injuries, they’ve been through it all. For it to just end like that is really tough to see.”