Alabama moved quickly to a 37-27 lead out of halftime against Florida Saturday afternoon as the Crimson Tide scored on four of the first five possessions while the Gators were sputtering and in need of a pick-me-up. Enter Kenny Boynton, who had suffered through some of his own struggles this season. He scored 13 of the Gators’ 20 points in a 6:35 stretch that totally turned the game around, gave Florida a seven-point lead, and allowed them to control the rest of the game and roll to a hard-fought 61-51 win.
Florida guard Kenny Boyton lit the fuse that propelled Florida into Sunday’s SEC Championship game. Credit: Jim Burgess/University of Florida Athletics Communications
Boynton had come off a two-point effort in Friday’s rout over LSU and gained so much confidence in his play in the second half that he captured a leadership role and willed Florida to the win.
“I was really, really happy for Kenny, personally,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan, ” Just to see him bounce back and to continue to have confidence and belief in himself and to play with that fire that I see him play with so often.”
Boynton made a layup and then nailed a three off an inbounds pass to cut the game to 37-36. He had great success in transition against the quick Alabama guards. When he established, he was able to knock the short jumpers down.
“I think Coach did a great job at halftime of challenging us as a team to come out with energy,” said Boynton, “I got two free throws and my teammates found me in transition. I didn’t get more aggressive or anything. The floor just opened up more.”
Florida guard Mike Rosario noted how Boynton’s run jump started the flailing Gators.
“As a team, we just needed a spark, especially from our senior Kenny,” noted Rosario, who had 10 points in 29 minutes, “Coach really gave us a good speech at halftime. You have to want to be in the struggle and this is a grind-it-out game.”
Boynton responded to Donovan’s halftime challenge in a big way. He was 0-of-3 from the floor and had no assists or rebounds in 12 minutes. Donovan noted that he challenged him to step up at halftime Donovan said that he thought Boynton had some good looks early but became deflated after missing a layup and two triples.
“I just told him, ‘You’re a senior in college, right now; It’s time too fight. You’ve always fought,’” commented Donovan, “I said, ‘I’ve got confidence in you, but you have got to fight right now. You have got to fight through what you’re going through and right now, I don’t see that look on your face.’”
From there, Boynton responded to the challenge. He was 6-of-9 from the floor with 16 points in 17 minutes to cap off another chapter in his on-again, off-again season.
- Ken Cross
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