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Friday December 28, 2012Gators Head to South Florida Looking for Answers; Boynton to Spend More Time Off the Ball

Gainesville, Fla.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

‘Tis the season for bouncing back. 


The Florida Gators left for Christmas break mere hours after a listless loss Saturday to unranked Kansas State in Kansas City. The team reported back for workouts Wednesday and heard, but good, from Billy Donovan on a subject the coach and his staff have spoken about with their players ad nauseum.


How you practice is how you play. 


“We worked them pretty hard, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Donovan said.


The Gators had a long bus ride, too. 


After Friday’s practice, the team left for a trip down the turnpike to South Florida, where 14th-ranked UF (8-2), having dropped two of three after ascending to No. 5 in the nation, will face Air Force (8-2) in the Orange Bowl Classic at Sunrise. 


With two games to work out the kinks before opening Southeastern Conference play, the Gators need to rediscover the intensity that sparked them to win the first seven games by an average of 25 points before the collapse in Arizona and dud in Missouri, where UF surrendered a season high in points (67) and scored a season low. (61) 


“We’ve seen some slippage on defense, but I think part of that was we were so atrocious on offense against Kansas State,” Donovan said. 


As a means to get back that rhythm on offense, look for senior Kenny Boynton to get more time at his natural shooting guard spot -- where he played exclusively his first three seasons -- after playing mostly point guard for the first 10 games. 


“He wants that,” Donovan said. 


When Boynton chose to return for his senior year (rather than turn pro) he did so after telling the UF staff he wanted an opportunity to run an offense because, at his size, the point was probably the position he’d have to be slotted for any chance to play at the next level. 


Back at the off-guard spot the last couple days, Boynton shot the ball better at practice. After making just 13 of his last 51 field-goal attempts (25.4 percent), he needs to start shooting better in games, too. 


Maybe less on his plate will lead to more productivity. 


Just as critical to the cause, according to Donovan, is the team’s commitment to practice. After facing the Falcons, the Gators don’t play again until Jan. 6. 


“That means I’ll have eight days to pummel these guys,” he said. 




No. 14 Florida vs. Air Force           

Tip-off: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.) 

Records: Florida 8-2; Air Force 8-2         

TV: FSN (w/Rich Waltz and Mark Wise)  

Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Steve Woodard) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 134/XM 199

Game notes: Florida notes 

Need to know: Counting the canceled half of the battleship season opener at Jacksonville, UF is playing its fourth neutral-site game (and, yes, the last one in Kansas City counts). This will mark the 12th appearance in the last 13 Orange Bowl classics for the Gators, who are 9-2 in the game. ... Florida and Air Force have played just once before, and that was a half-century ago. The Gators defeated the Falcons 74-68 in the Gator Bowl Tournament on Dec. 27, 1963 at Jacksonville. ... UF is 2-3 all-time vs. teams from the Mountain West Conference, including 1-0 under Coach Billy Donovan. That lone game was a 73-49 first-round defeat of San Diego State in the 2008 NIT. ... Florida is 3-1 all-time vs. the service academies, with the only defeat a 69-62 loss against Navy in 1962. ... This is one of just two games (along with a Jan. 6 trip to Yale) before UF enters Southeastern Conference play Jan. 9 against Georgia. ... Junior C Patric Young (10.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is playing some of the best, most consistent and high-energy basketball of his career. Young had his fourth double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) of the season in the loss last weekend against Kansas State, which matches his double-double total in the previous two seasons combined. ... Senior G Mike Rosario (12.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg) had a tough night against the Wildcats (1-for-9 from the floor), but he leads Southeastern Conference players in free-throw shooting at 89.3 percent (25 of 28). ... Junior G Scottie Wilbekin, with 36 assists and just 11 turnovers, is third in the SEC in assist-turnover ratio at 3.3. Wilbekin (8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg) is also hitting 47.3 percent of his field goals and 42.9 of his 3-point attempts. ... Senior guard Kenny Boynton (12.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), a South Florida native, would love to use his home-grown fans to help emerge from a five-game shooting slump. The No. 5 scorer in school history, Boynton has made just 25.4 percent of his shots during that time and only 16.1 percent (5-for-31) of his 3-point shots. ... Air Force, in its first season under Coach Dave Pilopovich, is a high-scoring team that averages more points (77-72) than Florida, shoots better than Florida (49 percent to 46) and hits more threes than Florida (9.1 to 7.6). And the Falcons do it out of the Princeton-style offense. ... All the Falcons’ wins have come against low- to mid-majors (including Army, the Citadel and most recently UC-Riverside), with the two losses vs. Colorado (ranked 23rd at the time) and Wichita State. ... Air Force will work its cutting, back-door offense mostly from a three-guard set and is led by is 6-5 G Michael Lyons averaging 20.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Backcourt mate Todd Fletcher has buried 18 of 35 (51.4 percent) of his 3s. Meanwhile, the Gators better not sleep on Erik Murphy-like F Taylor Broekhuis (11.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg), who is 6-for-10 from beyond the arc. 



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