Boynton, Walker Carry Gators in SEC Opener

The Gators could have looked up at the scoreboard and experienced déjà vu. They blew an 11-point halftime lead only nine minutes into the second half, and the questions about their ability to handle success started to surface. When Florida (12-3, 1-0 SEC) needed offense the most, the two starting guards decided to step up.

Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combined for 37 points in Florida's 77-71 victory over Ole Miss to open SEC play.

"Some of their plays were really key for us," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "They did a good job executing. We found each other. What you need to have happen is for guys to respond."

Walker had led the team with 20 points, pushing him over the 1,000-point mark for his career. He is the 47th player in Florida history to do that, joining his teammates Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus. Walker has scored double digits in eight of Florida's last nine games.

"He'll talk to his kids about it when he's 40. He'll say that he left here as the leading scorer, just a couple of guys passed him after he graduated," Donovan joked.

After the final buzzer sounded, Boynton and Walker embraced at midcourt and a sigh of relief. They combined for 12 points and went 4-for-12 from the field in the first half.

Walker and Boynton combined to shoot 1-for-5 from behind the three-point line in the first half. They went 5-for-9 from distance in the second half.

"I think it's our confidence," Boynton said. "We just came on in the second half, but in the end, I think it's just our confidence that helps."

Florida went on a run at the end of the first half that looked like it might make for an easy second half. Ole Miss started the game in a different defensive set than Florida expected. When the Gators tried to run the pick-and-roll, the Rebels stepped out on the player with the ball, which they hadn't shown on film all season.

Donovan made an adjustment, and the Gators went on a 14-2 run over the final 3:25 of the first half, pushing Florida's lead to 39-28 at the half.

"We didn't expect them to show on the screens like they did," Boynton said. "In the second half, coach told us to curl the ball out and not attack the screens."

Ole Miss responded to start the second half, but it didn't come as a surprise to Donovan. Starting point guard Chris Warren was averaging over 18 points a game and went to the locker room for the half with zero points and one assist.

Donovan wasn't surprised.

"I told our team that the second half would come down to three things- our ability to rebound the ball, us not turning the ball over and Chris Warren. We could not let him go off, and he was going to try. I talked to our guys specifically about it, because I've seen him in second halves do that. He doesn't panic that he has zero points."

The Rebels opened went on a 15-6 run over the first 6:45 of the second half, pushing within two points.

With 3:24 remaining and a one-point lead, Boynton hit the shot that would seal the game. He caught the ball behind the three-point line at the top of the key, faked left and rose. The ball went through the net without hitting the rim, and Warren also hit Boynton on the shot.

He hit the free throw to seal his third straight game with a four-point play and pushing the Florida lead to 71-66.

Florida outscored Ole Miss 10-5 over the final three minutes to seal the win.

"Florida has been playing really well," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "They got a couple of huge shots. We came up a little bit short, but it certainly wasn't because of lack of effort. I told our guys if we bring that same focus, from an effort standpoint, we'd win any game."

Chandler Parsons had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He shot 3-for-3 from behind the three-point line and 4-for-4 from the free throw line after struggling all season in those two areas.

Vernon Macklin had 16 points and seven rebounds. Walker, Boynton, Parsons and Macklin combined for 70 of Florida's 77 total points.

The Gators now head to Knoxville to play Tennessee on Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

Fightin Gators Top Stories