By: Chris Dortch
SEC Digital Network
NASHVILLE — Kenny Boynton’s offensive game, so vital to the cause as Florida attempts to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, had been missing in action in the SEC Tournament this week, a troubling trend that Gator coach Billy Donovan needed to reverse on Saturday afternoon.
It was halftime of Florida’s semifinal game against Alabama, and Boynton’s line in the box score read like a binary numbers chart. In other words, there were a bunch of zeroes on it, at least in the stats that counted: zero field goals, zero free throws, zero rebounds, zero assists. Donovan is not a fan of zeroes, especially when they’re attached to such a vital piece of his team as Boynton.
Halftime provided Donovan the perfect opportunity to help his game-breaking shooter reverse his fortunes.
“I went after him pretty good at halftime,” Donovan said. “... I just told him, you’re a senior in college right now. It’s time to fight. ... You’ve got to fight through what you’re going through, and right now, I don’t see that fight and that look on your face.”
With 16:05 to play in the second half, Donovan was still waiting to see that look. While Alabama was increasing a two-point halftime lead to 10, Boynton hadn’t yet scratched.
It was a free throw that got Boynton going again. And then another. Then came a layup, and less than a minute later, for the first time in more than three halves worth of basketball, a 3-pointer. One more layup and a jump shot followed. When Boynton was finished, those zeroes on his line in the box score were long gone. His 11-point outburst had propelled the Gators to a 40-37 lead, and they never trailed again in securing a 61-51 victory that sent them to a Sunday title-game matchup with Ole Miss. Boynton ended up with a game-high 16 points.
Suffice it to say Boynton’s teammates were glad to have him back.
“You can just tell by the way he’s moving,” Patric Young said. “He has like a swagger about him. He knows he’s not gonna get stopped. He thinks the ball’s going in every time.
“I’ve seen that look in his eyes ever since high school, playing AAU basketball. He thought the ball was going in every time he shot it. Maybe he was struggling with that the last few games and early on [against Alabama], but you’ve got to keep fighting; shooters gotta keep shooting.”
“When he gets it going, he’s really hard to stop,” Erik Murphy said. “There was a stretch there in the second half where he basically took over the game offensively. When he gets like that, it’s pretty much let him go, he’s not missing many. It feels good to see him break out like that after he’s been struggling shooting a little bit.”
Boynton’s explanation for his return to form wasn’t complicated. There was no magic moment for him.
“I think coach did a great job at halftime of challenging us as a team to come out with energy,” Boynton said. “I got two free throws and my teammates found me in transition. So basically, I didn’t get more aggressive or anything. The floor just opened up more.”