Boynton steps up on both offense, defense

Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 12:19 a.m.

Kenny Boynton’s job wasn’t to be the offensive juggernaut against Arkansas on Saturday. But it happened.

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Florida guard Kenny Boynton, left, runs up the court past Arkansas guard Jeff Peterson during the second half.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

Known more for his scoring ability than defense, Boynton’s main responsibility was to cover one of the SEC’s best shooters in Rotnei Clarke. After that, he was free to be himself.

But it was his furious defense that not only set the tone for Florida’s 75-43 win over the Razorbacks, but fueled his tremendous offensive game. With more of a loose attitude toward the offensive side, Boynton conjured a game-high 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He was also 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line.

“I wasn’t really focused on offense,” Florida’s sophomore guard said. “That kind of took care of itself.”

Boynton made it a mission to shut down Clarke, who entered Saturday leading the Hogs with 13 points per game. However, he left with nothing to show for his trip to Gainesville. Clarke, who was predominantly guarded by Boynton, was held scoreless against the Gators. Boynton limited Clarke to only an air ball in the first half.

Clarke chucked up another air ball in the second half to the home crowd’s delight, earning him numerous chants of “air ball” whenever he checked back in or touched the ball. With Boynton guarding him with six minutes remaining, Clarke finally hit iron, causing Florida’s crowd to deliver sarcastic cheers and applause.

“I think sometimes this happens to a player when you have an unbelievable challenge in front of you to guard maybe the best shooter in the country and certainly one of the best shooters in our league. Sometimes you don’t even worry about your offense because you have such a respect for the way that guy shoots the ball,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said of Boynton. “I thought he set the stage defensively for the way he guarded Clarke, and then what happened was he’s not even thinking offense because he knows I gotta play this guy.”

When Boynton wasn’t smothering Clarke on defense, he was putting quite the highlight reel together on the other end of the floor.

Boynton missed his first two shots of the night, but stayed involved with his distribution. Boynton grabbed two assists before draining the Gators’ first 3-pointer of the night to put Florida ahead 17-8 with 10:34 remaining in the first half.

From there, Boynton was on point.

The wild, almost careless Boynton who graced courts this season never entered the arena Saturday. Boynton was much calmer and controlled with his shots and shot selection.

Helping him were the extra passes he got, the way he got himself so open and his relentless effort to drive through the paint more.

“I took better shots,” said Boynton, who entered shooting 33 percent in his last eight games.

“All my shots were open shots instead of contested shots.”

Boynton excited the crowd of 11,184 with his slicing layups and dagger-like 3-pointers as he shook off his 3-of-13 night against Auburn on Thursday.

Boynton showed a much more complete night against the Hogs, but his teammates will continue to encourage him to shoot. That’s what they like about him, and that’s why they respect him.

“He’s a scorer,” senior Chandler Parsons said. “He’s going to shoot the ball no matter what. If he goes 0-for-9 or 9-for-9, he’s going to continue to shoot the ball, and we’re going to give him the ball when he’s open.”

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