In their first matchup of the NCAA tournament Friday evening, the Gator basketball team will take on the Northwestern State Demons for the first time in school history.
One thing that will certainly be important to watch Friday night will be the pace at which Northwestern State plays.
This Northwestern State team will come at the Gators in waves as their fast pace tempo stretches the entire floor and includes a ton of substitutions.
On tape it looks as if Northwestern State is playing hockey, they use constant pressure on both ends of the floor and will substitute as many as five players at one time. Highlighting this fact is that Northwestern State had four players on the Southland All-Conference team, yet only one of those four players started more then five games this year. Think about that, four all conference players, and three of them aren’t even starters.
“They’re a high-octane team offensively, and they pressure the ball on defense. We just got to be ready for that. We’re just going to follow coach’s game plan and try to execute it as best we can,” Erik Murphy said at the team press conference on Wednesday.
One thing beneficial to the Gators should be the reliance of Northwestern State on young players. Being faced with the big stage that is March Madness is never an easy first time task for any caliber player. Northwestern State thrives behind freshmen DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg) and Jalan West (10.3 ppg). In fact, first-year players account for 45% of the team’s NCAA leading 81 points per game.
As threatening as the Demons look on the offensive end, the noticeable difference when comparing the two squads on paper comes in the department of points allowed per game. Florida’s stingy defense holds opponents to 53.7 ppg, while Northwestern State seems to be unsure of what the word defense means, allowing teams to score at a mark of 71.2 points per game.
“The two main keys for us are handling the transition defense, getting back in transition, and getting to our man. And just handling their pressure. Just taking care of the ball and not making costly casual turnovers. I feel like if we do a great job in those areas, I feel like we’ll be fine,” said Senior Mike Rosario.
Florida will start off their bid to Atlanta at 7:27pm EST tomorrow evening here in Austin, Texas. Be sure to stop by GatorCountry.com for a live game thread as we keep you up to date with all the game action.