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Tuesday December 18, 2012Boynton, Gators Ready to Get Back to Winning Ways (UF vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 7 p.m.)

Gainesville, Fla.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kenny Boynton is climbing his way toward the top of the Florida all-time basketball scoring list, but early Sunday morning -- in the minutes/hours after that numbing collapse in Arizona -- the senior guard probably was pining for just two measly free throws.

Or one fewer turnover.

Or maybe one executed inbounds pass.

One or a combination of either likely would have allowed the Gators to escape raucous McKale Center with one of the greatest road victories in school history. Instead, the residual effects of blowing an 11-point second-half lead -- and six-point margin in the final minute -- remain fresh in the team's collective mind and a topic of conversation for UF fans everywhere. That'll be the case probably until the Gators (7-1) get Wednesday night's date against struggling Southeastern Louisiana (1-7) behind them.

The game against the Lions would be a good time for something good to happen for Boynton after a trio of tough outings. Not that the 6-foot-2 shooting-guard-turned-point-guard is lacking on the confidence front.

"I'm good," said Boynton, now just five points from becoming the fifth player in UF history to reach the 1,700-point milestone. "I just want to get back out there and start winning games again."

Florida coach Billy Donovan says the Gators are a "very good team, but not a great one" for any number of reasons. If they're going to attain the latter, UF will need Boynton to play better than he has the last three games when's averaged just 8.3 points on 24.2-percent shooting (8-for-33), including 10 percent (2-for-20) from behind the 3-point line.

"I'm not worried about Kenny. He's still confident and we're confident in him," junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "I know he's going to come around because he's done it every other time he's gone through a little slump. It's a long season. We're just eight games in. He'll find his stroke. It might be next game, might be two games from now, but he'll find it."

One of the easy solutions to assisting Boynton out of his recent run of tough luck would seem obvious: move him back to a shooting guard exclusively and turn playmaking duties over to Wilbekin.

Donovan, though, has no intention of doing that.

"I think there were a lot of things on his plate and he feels bad about what happened, but you can't," Donovan said. "He's got to learn and move forward from this and get better."

The Gators were playing very well -- and moving the ball -- last month when Boynton stepped in during Wilbekin's three-game suspension to open the season. That's the reference point Donovan is using in coaching Boynton now.

He needs Boynton to work through these tough times and make better decisions shooting and distributing the ball, thus leaving the Gators with rotation options that include Boynton on the ball.

"He's just hit a speed bump, that's all," senior guard Mike Rosario said. "He's a shooter, so he needs to keep doing what he does best and not let it get in his head."

Boynton's shot selection has been questionable at times and that goes beyond the ill-advised 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining -- and 16 seconds on the shot clock -- Saturday when UF led by six and needed to tick off precious seconds.

And he knows that missed front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds to play, and having missed a chance to put his team up by three, might still be weighing on his veteran backcourt player.

But he needs to let it go.

What Donovan wants from Boynton is something he saw enough of earlier in the season to be encouraged. Quit worrying about scoring and go back to running the team. Maybe he'll get some open looks along the way. Maybe he won't.

"My thing to him is, can he live with taking four or five shots in a game?" Donovan said. "Because he needs to."

There are plenty of scoring options on this team and -- like the Gators as a whole in Arizona -- maybe individual players on this squad have to learn things the hard way, too.

Some harder than others.

"Coach and I have talked and, like I said, we're good," Boynton said. "I know my time will come and I know this team is going to win a lot more games."

No. 8 Florida vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Tip-off: Wednesday, 7 p.m. (O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.)
Records: Florida 7-1; SE Louisiana (1-7)
TV: SUN (w/Larry Vettel and Bill Koss)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 134/XM 199
Game notes: Florida notes
Need to know: The Gators look to get back on track following Saturday night's crushing 65-64 loss at then-No. 8 and unbeaten Arizona. ... This is UF's only home game over a 40-day span, with the Gators' last being at the O'Dome for an 82-49 win over Marquette on Nov. 29 and their next date coming with the Southeastern Conference opener Jan. 9 against Georgia. ... Despite allowing 65 points against the Wildcats, UF remains third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 50.4 points per game. ... The Gators defense is allowing opponents just 36.1 percent from the floor. That's second among Southeastern Conference teams and 14th in the nation. ... Florida and SE Louisiana are meeting for the first time. It's the fifth time the Gators have faced a Southland Conference foe, with Florida defeating Nicholls State (1997), McNeese State ('97) and Sam Houston State twice (2003 NCAA Tournament and in '04 regular season) the previous four. ... G Kenny Boynton leads UF at 13.3 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game, but three other starters also average in double figures, including F Erik Murphy (12.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Mike Rosario (12 ppg, 2 apg) and C Patric Young (10 ppg, 7.1 rpg). ... Freshman G Michael Frazier (5.8 ppg, 40.7 from 3-point range) played just three minutes at Arizona due to flu-like symptoms, but practiced full-go Monday and Tuesday. ... The Gators have 109 assists for the season, but 101 turnovers, a precarious ratio that finally reared itself Saturday in the first close game the team has played this season. Before the trip to Tucson, UF won the previous seven games by an average of 25.3 points, with the closest margin of victory 13 points. ... The Lions have just one player averaging in double figures: 6-3 G Brandon Fortenberry (11.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg). ... SE Louisiana lost at Wisconsin by 40 and Marquette by 13, two teams UF defeated by a combined 51 points.


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