Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton stepped onto the court Saturday afternoon against Mississippi State as the SEC’s second-leading scorer.
He walked off it nearly pointless in Florida’s 69-57 win over the Bulldogs.
Here are Boynton’s shooting totals: 1-for-6 from the floor, 0-for-3 from 3-point range, and two points – 16 below his season average.
Afterward, Florida coach Billy Donovan spoke with Boynton to address his performance.
Did Donovan challenge Boynton’s shot selection? Did he criticize him for not driving to the basket more? Did he tell Boynton the Gators were lucky to win Saturday with his modest contributions?
The answer: none of the above.
“I told Kenny after the game that I was really proud of him,’’ Donovan said. “I think Kenny would maybe be a guy who would be upset maybe a couple of years ago. I think it was a real valuable lesson.’’
The lesson Donovan is talking about is that while Boynton is the Gators’ leading scorer and usually provides plenty of points, there will be games like Saturday. And if Boynton plays the way he did in other areas, the Gators will be just fine.
“That just shows how great of a team we can be, because Kenny usually scores 19 or 20 points a game,’’ freshman Brad Beal said. “I mean, he only scored two tonight, but he still did a good job on defense. He stopped [Bulldogs guard] Dee Bost the best he could and we fed off that. Whether or not he knows it, he was a big impact in the game.”
In 29 minutes, Boynton contributed to the Gators’ fifth consecutive win in other ways. He had a game-high five assists, didn’t commit a turnover and played stellar defense on Mississippi State scorers Bost and Brian Bryant. Bost finished with only 12 points – four below his average – and when Bryant scored eight points early in the first half, Boynton moved over to defend him, helping limit Bryant to three points the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Boynton’s backcourt mate wasn’t exactly lighting it up either. Erving Walker hit 4 of 10 shots, including 2 of 6 from behind the arc, and needed a long 3-pointer in the final seconds to hit double-figures. Still, like Boynton, Walker stepped up his game in other ways.
Walker added four assists and also did not commit a turnover. It was the first time since the season opener against Jackson State that that neither Boynton nor Walker committed a turnover in the same game.
During Florida’s five-game SEC winning streak since losing its conference opener at Tennessee, Walker (25 assists, six turnovers) and Boynton (14 assists, four turnovers) have combined for 39 assists and only 10 turnovers, the kind of ball care Donovan preaches on a regular basis.
“I was really, really proud of Walker and Boynton because they could never really get it going offensively, and they had decent looks,’’ Donovan said. “But combined, they had nine assists and zero turnovers. That was really important – their shot selection and not wanting to force things.
“It’s a pretty impressive stat for those two guys.”
Everyone took care of the basketball Saturday. The Gators committed a season-low five turnovers and Beal had the only one for the starting lineup.
And despite Boynton and Walker combining for just 12 points – 18.8 points below their combined season average – the Gators owned a comfortable lead for much of the second half. An 11-0 run late helped seal Florida’s 17th consecutive win at the O’Connell Center.
“People say we are a guard-oriented team, but I think our team is completely balanced,’’ said center Patric Young, who came off the bench to score 12. “We don’t need Kenny and Erv go for 20, 25 every night. We know what everyone on our team is capable of doing. Whatever you take away, hopefully another guy can key off on that.”
Beal led the way Saturday with a team-high 19 points, and forward Erik Murphy chipped in with 14.
What was the lesson Walker took from Boynton’s off night in a Gators’ victory?
“That we’re not a one-man team,’’ Walker said. “He’s a great scorer and some nights you have nights like that. He still played a good game. He was active on defense and he had five assists. He’s a great player.”
That is what Donovan tried to remind Boynton of after the game.