Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Talk about extremes.
The rock-bottom shooting slump that sucked Kenny Boynton into an offensive abyss gave way Sunday night to a five-alarm, 3-point meteor shower in a wonderful, dusty old cracker box of a college basketball gymnasium.
Maybe UF's leading scorer just needed to go old school to find his old self.
"It kind of felt like a high school game," Boynton said.
So it was fitting, perhaps, that Boynton dominated like he did back in high school. The former McDonald's All-American and No. 5 scorer in UF history rained in a career high-tying 28 points, draining eight of 10 shots from beyond the arc, to lead 13th-ranked Florida past Ivy League foe Yale 79-58 in front of a sold-out John J. Lee Amphitheater crowd of 2,532, about half of which was decked in orange and blue.
Along the way, Boynton broke the school record for career 3-point field goals, eclipsing the previous mark of 288, held by the incomparable two-time NCAA champion Lee Humphrey, and ran the record to 290 with plenty of season to play.
"I knew it was a matter of time," the senior guard said of rediscovering his stroke.
Maybe so, but Boynton certainly took his time getting there. He came into Boynton the game having made just 27.8 percent of his field-goal attempts (17 of 61) the previous six games and a woeful 17.9 percent (7-for-39) of this 3s, dating to a Nov. 29 win against Marquette.
By breaking through in the final non-league game of the season, Boynton and the Gators (10-2) should feel a bit better as they move toward Southeastern Conference play, starting with Wednesday night's opener at home against Georgia.
Now, if they can just get some good news on Erik Murphy.
Murphy, the senior forward and team's second-leading scorer, was scratched from the Yale game due to bruised ribs suffered in practice Friday. His status will be reevaluated after further tests, including X-rays, on Monday. Murphy's loss came on a day two buses of family and friends from his hometown of South Kingstown, R.I., made the 85-mile trip to see him play.
Instead, they settled for a post-game hello.
"If someone goes down, someone steps up," said junior Will Yeguete, who moved into Murphy's spot in the frontcourt and played his typical and efficient blue-collar game, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. "When we lose someone like Erik, we just have to come together as a team and do a better job overall."
Senior guard Mike Rosario had 13 points and three assists, while junior swingman Casey Prather came off the bench to score nine points (on 4-for-6 shooting) and grab six rebounds in a career-high 26 minutes. Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin rang up a career-best 10 assists, more than half the team's total of 19, which was the second-highest this season.
"I thought, offensively, we tried to play the right away," UF coach Billy Donovan said.
Without the threat of Murphy on the perimeter, the Gators leaned on a smaller lineup, lots of full-court pressure and unleashed athleticism the Bulldogs (5-11) just weren't able to match.
And Boynton got hot.
Yale was hanging around late in the second half when Javier Duren hit a three to cut UF's lead to 26-23 with 2:15 to go before the break. The Gators, though, went on a 9-0 spurt to end the half, started by an old-fashioned 3-point play from Prather and ended by a trio of free throws from freshman guard Michael Frazier.
In between, Boynton knocked down his first trey of the game and off he went.
"When a shooter sees the ball go in the hole, his eyes get bigger," Yale coach James Jones said. "We knew he wasn't a career -percent shooter."
Just to prove it, Boynton made seven 3-pointers in a row over one stretch, the momentum of which surged through his teammates and helped UF's pressure defense set in motion a 12-0 run to start the second half, which made for a 21-0 spree spanning the intermission.
Donovan credited Boynton with helping pull himself from the slump by taking what the defense gave him, rather than forcing shots that weren't there.
"He got some space for himself because he put [the ball] on the floor and got into the lane early in the game," Donovan said. "He was able to shoot the ball in more of a rhythm when he knew he had enough space to get the ball off. He really, really shot it well and that certainly helped us -- and he didn't do it with a large number of shots."
Boynton took just 12 shots all game, including an early drive and layup to settle in, and ended up making nine shots overall; and all but that first layup were threes.
"We did a poor job finding him a couple times ... and he got hot," Duren said.
"I just think I played tonight -- and even the last game -- with a clear mind and not thinking about it," said Boynton, who given his recent run of masonry felt pretty good about his 3-for-7 performance from the arc in last weekend's win over Air Force. "I waited my turn."
The Gators were willing to wait with him.
"Nobody on our team was worrying about 'KB' shooting," Yeguete said. "He's got his confidence back."