GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The last time Florida was unbeaten this late in the season and squared off against another unbeaten team, it fell to No. 7 Syracuse 85-73 in Tampa.
Senior Erik Murphy is hopeful No. 5 Florida can sustain its momentum against No. 8 Arizona.
Senior Erik Murphy, who was a true freshman at the time, doesn't remember much about the game other than the loss.
He'll be trying to help No. 5 Florida avoid a similar fate tonight against No. 8 Arizona. For him, that means treating the game like any other game and playing the same stingy defense that has gotten the Gators out to a 7-0 start.
“The team is trying to take it as another game,” he said. “The media and everything is trying to blow it up. It's an important game, obviously, two good teams and a test on the road, but I think we've got to approach it as another game and try to come out and focus on what coach gives us in a game plan.”
But this Top 10 matchup will feature a more experienced Florida team, one that has been ripping opponents to pieces in winning by an average 25.3 points per game.
While the Gators have gutted their first seven opponents, including Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State, the Wildcats will be the toughest test to date.
“I think you can learn something about your team from every game,” coach Billy Donovan said. “And you can find out a lot more about your team traveling all the way across the country to play a really, really talented team like Arizona.”
The Wildcats return a couple of quality starters, including All-Pac-12 forward Solomon Hill. Hill, along with fellow returning starter Nick Johnson averages double-figure scoring at 12.3 points per game. Johnson averages 13.6, while Xavier transfer Mark Lyons adds 13.4 per game.
A pair of freshmen round out the starting lineup for Arizona, with 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-foot-8 forward Brandon Ashley playing very well in their first season.
Donovan is well aware just how much those five will test his squad in a late 10 p.m. ET tip.
“People start to give you attention based on the margin of victory, and I'm not that sure that has anything to do with going into this game against Arizona,” he said. “For me right now the attention is based on everything we've done in the past, but we're still kind of moving forward here. I still think we can get a lot better on both ends of the floor.”
Murphy and the rest of the Gators are approaching the Top 10 showdown the same way.
They know what they've had to do to get here, and stopping it now won't get them a win out West.
“I wouldn't say things have come easy,” Murphy said. “We've made them look easy, but I think that's a product of what we've been doing since the start of the season in practice, all the work we put in, that's what has come out of it.
"We just have to keep sustaining it.”
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