Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At 8:23 p.m. Tuesday, the O'Connell Center became this city's largest church.
Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton lay face-down on the court, his face writhing in pain after rolling his left ankle on a drive to the basket. An eery silence hushed over the dome, and you just know a couple fans sent requests skyward.
"I was praying he was OK," Gators senior guard Mike Rosario said.
Boynton suffered an ankle sprain on the play about midway through the second half and did not return to the game. He could have come back if the seventh-ranked Gators absolutely needed him, but that wasn't the case in 58-40 defeat of Savannah State before 7,323 at the O'Dome.
"I've done it so many times to the same ankle, so I knew exactly what it was," Boynton said. "It hurt really bad at first and when I got up I knew it was serious enough."
Enough to likely sideline Boynton from practice today. If that sounds like no big deal, consider the shooter-turned-point guard and school's No. 6 all-time scorer has never missed a practice in his UF career.
Coach Billy Donovan expects to have Boynton when the Gators (4-0) face UCF on Friday.
"We've had to deal with a lot of stuff these first three or four games," Donovan said.
Florida has had a starter suspended (guard Scottie Wilbekin), a key reserve injured (forward Casey Prather), a player quit (center/forward Cody Larson) and even had a game on a battleship cancelled at halftime, but one constant throughout the chaos has been defense. The Gators slapped more of the same on the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs.
Junior center Patric Young scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked a career-high six shots for a UF team that held the Tigers (3-3) to just four points on 2-for-19 shooting through nearly the game's first 17 minutes.
"As a team, we've taken the adversity head on," Young said. "We've fought back, practiced hard, didn't complain and now we're 4-0."
Not because of what the did on offense Tuesday. The Gators didn't bring their collective shooting eye (30.8 percent in the first half; 35.4 for the game) and only led 24-6 when SSU guard Cedric Smith (11 points, 6 rebounds) scored his team's third field goal with just over three minutes to go before intermission.
Smith's basket started a 13-4 run by the Tigers that extended into the second half and actually cut UF's lead to just 12 points before Rosario (13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) buried back-to-back 3-pointers that started a 16-2 run that built the lead to 24.
"Offensively, we were not great at all," Donovan said. "If we did not defend like we did the entire game we would have been in a dogfight."
Florida made just 17 field goals and turned the ball over 13 times, but the defense countered by forcing 20 turnovers and limiting the Tigers to just four 3-point attempts.
"Our guys came out timid early," Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said. "We couldn't make shots."
The Gators weren't that much better, scoring 16 points fewer than their early season average. Then again, they didn't have their leading scorer for a big chunk of the game.
Boynton hit just one of his six field-goal attempts for five points before being helped off the court. He went to the locker room, then came back to the bench -- just in case.
He limped out of the arena about an hour later, but did so smiling.
"I just need to ice it and get treatment on it [Wednesday]," he said. "It's nothing that's going to be long."
What a relief.
To Boynton and a lot of other people.
"KB never gets hurt, so it was tough to see him down like that," junior forward Will Yeguete said. "Everybody just sort of stopped doing everything 'cause he wouldn't get up -- and KB always gets up. It was best for us that he just rested."