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Preview: Northwestern State vs. Florida

Preview: Northwestern State vs. Florida

The last time Northwestern State reached the NCAA Tournament, the 14th-seeded Demons eliminated No. 3 seed Iowa on a 3-pointer right before the buzzer. It's one of the 16 times a 14 seed has beaten a No. 3 in the NCAA Tournament, and Florida is hoping lightning does not strike twice. The third-seeded Gators face the No. 14 Demons Friday in a second-round South Regional NCAA Tournament game in Austin, Texas.

Northwestern State, which last played in the NCAA tournament in 2006, wields an up-tempo assault that averages an NCAA-leading 81 points on 72.9 possessions. Florida hasn't allowed more than 80 points while ranking third nationally in scoring defense (53.7 ppg). The season-high 80 points the Gators yielded in a Feb. 5 loss at Arkansas marked the only time a Florida opponent has scored 70 or more.

TV: 7:27 p.m. ET, truTV

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN STATE (23-8): All three of the Demons' NCAA appearances have come during Mike McConathy's 14-year tenure, and earlier this month he set the record for total wins by a Louisiana college coach. "Just to be able to bring this back to the community is very important," McConathy said after defeating Stephen F. Austin on Saturday to win the Southland Conference title. That community could be well represented against the Gators: Austin is less than six hours' drive from the NSU campus in Natchitoches,

ABOUT FLORIDA (26-7): A 66-63 loss to Mississippi in the finals of the SEC tourney dropped Florida to 0-6 in games decided by six or fewer points. "Our guys haven't lost confidence at all," Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the SEC title game, adding "I think what happens, sometimes people try to create drama around a situation that's not necessarily true." Meanwhile, Florida's Kenny Boynton is chasing history. He enters the NCAAs five points away from 2,000, and a deep NCAA run could give him the 96 points necessary to supplant Ronnie Williams (2,090) as the Gators' all-time top scorer.

TIP-INS

  1. Northwestern State guard Jalan West was named the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year. He's the first Demon to win the award since 2003 when it went to Jermaine Wallace, who hit the game-winning shot to beat Iowa in this team's last NCAA appearance.

  2. Florida hasn't lost back-to-back games since dropping three consecutive games to end the 2011-12 regular season.

  3. If the Gators and second-seeded Georgetown Hoyas reach the Sweet 16, it would set up a rematch of the season opener between the two teams aboard the USS Bataan that was cancelled at halftime due to condensation on the court.

PREDICTION: Florida 84, Northwestern State 71