Boynton's big run gives Gators a spark


Florida guard Kenny Boynton goes up for a layup past Alabama center Moussa Gueye during the second half of their SEC Tournament semifinal game at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The run started innocently enough with a pair of free throws. Nobody could have possibly seen what was coming next.

A Kenny Boynton Explosion.

And when the dust settled and the shrapnel had been cleared, the senior guard had lifted Florida to the SEC Tournament title game.

“I tried not to get too excited,” he said, “and give up a play on the defensive end.”

How could he not be excited? Weren't you?

Boynton's 11 straight points did more than help the Gators rally from down 10 to up three against Alabama. It energized a team that needed jumper cables. Florida was lifted by Boynton both physically and emotionally.

Because while there are plenty of Boynton-bashers out there, none of them play for this basketball team.

“People don't see what he does in our locker room,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “They only see whether his shots go in. They judge him on how many points he scored. But the leadership, the defense, all of those things he does for this team, our team looks to him in a lot of ways.”

Boynton's senior season has seen him move to second all-time on the school's scoring list while in a shooting slump. It's not that Boynton has played poorly. Quite the opposite is true.

Boynton is playing the best basketball of his career. He just hasn't been shooting well.

When you're asked to do so much — run the point at times, defend like a pit bull, rebound from the guard position, be a leader — something has to suffer. In his case, it has been his 3-point shooting.

But everywhere else, Boynton has been exceptional.

“I've been on teams where guys get on a run and he's not a great teammate and guys didn't get excited because they weren't happy for him,” Donovan said. “Our team loves Kenny Boynton.

“There's no question he's playing his best basketball. He's done everything I've asked him to do.”

On Saturday against Alabama, Florida was in trouble. The Gators couldn't make a layup. They couldn't make free throws. They were getting beaten on the boards.

“We needed a spark,” senior guard Mike Rosario said.

Erik Murphy, the hero Friday, was struggling. And it wasn't as if Florida handed the game over to Boynton. He just took it.

The free throws started it. They were followed by a transition layup, the kind Boynton makes when his body gets all twisted and contorted and you think there is no way he can make it, but at least there will be a foul and, of course, it goes in and there is no foul called.

Boynton then made a 3, then another transition layup, then a bank shot in the middle of the lane

“I called a play for him,” Donovan said, “but not that play.”

Patric Young followed with a hook shot, but Boynton wasn't finished. After scoring two points in the first three halves of basketball in Nashville, he scored 16 in the second half Saturday.

“I try to stay grounded,” Boynton said. “(On Friday) I wasn't down as long as we're winning.”

Boynton was the focus of Donovan's paint-peeling lecture at halftime. He tried to get through to his team that anything worth getting is worth fighting for and it's not always going to be easy.

In a physical, intense game, the Gators were letting missed shots deflate them. He especially went after Boynton.

“I think I went after him pretty good,” Donovan said. “The reason I went after him, I said I've seen him over his career do some remarkable things and I've seen him when he's been in slumps. I've seen his fight and I thought he was one of the guys who got deflated.

“(Trevor) Lacey's taking him off the bounce, Lacey's knocking down 3s over him. It totally bled into the defensive end of the floor. I just told him, ‘You're a senior in college right now. It's time to fight. You've always fought. I don't see that fight and that look on your face.' He got it back.”

On his dribbling sprints down the court, Boynton had the look of a player who would not be denied. On the other end, he held Lacey to 1-of-7 shooting in the second half.

“Coach challenged me,” Boynton said. “I tried to step up to it.”

For a day, Kenny Boynton felt the love from the UF fan base again.

In the Gator locker room, it's never wavered.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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