NASHVILLE - The most important moment in Florida's 80-58 victory over LSU in the SEC basketball tournament quarterfinals Friday afternoon actually may have taken place in a medical facility Wednesday evening.
That's when a precautionary MRI on Gators senior forward Erik Murphy's right knee came back negative and Florida coach Billy Donovan decided "he was going to be able to play. It wouldn't be a problem."
Murphy instead became a huge problem for the Tigers, scoring a game-high 27 points, including five 3-pointers, and pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds as the Gators advanced to today's semifinal against Alabama.
"[Murphy] kind of puts the defense on their toes," said LSU's Charles Caramouche, who led his team with 14 points and three steals.
"If you've got a big guy guarding him, he'll take him outside. If you have a guard guarding him, he'll end up posting him up. It's a tough matchup."
The entire Gators team was a tough matchup for LSU, hitting 51 percent from the floor (29-of-57) and 55 percent from the 3-point line (11-of-20). Beyond that, they outrebounded LSU by 20 -- 47-27.
"They're long, have great length, and with their size, quickness and the strength they have inside, they can make it difficult for you," said first-year LSU coach Johnny Jones, whose 19-12 Tigers should land in the NIT. "Florida is just a very, very good basketball team."
If the 25-6 Gators keep playing like this over the rest of the SEC tourney, it may be tough to deny them a No. 2 seed come Selection Sunday.
"If we can ever get to point where we can continue to have a night like this collectively and [starters Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, who scored just nine combined points] start making a few shots, we could become that much more potent offensively," coach Billy Donovan said.
When you can become more potent than 80 points in a 22-point win you led by 35 at one point, you're going to become a tough matchup for everyone.