Boynton Impressive in Exhibition Opener

Monday night provided a first look at head coach Billy Donovan's 2009-10 Florida Gator basketball team, and although the opposing St. Leo Lions were clearly outmanned in the exhibition contest, the Gators were nonetheless impressive.

Led by heralded prep recruit Kenny Boynton's game-high 22 points, the Gators made short work of the Lions, 95-46, as Donovan's new-look squad dominated at both ends of the court.

"I think like most exhibition games, there were some really good bright spots and there were some things that were not so bright," Donovan said. "I'm anxious to see the film and see where we need to get better."

Florida scored nine of the game's first 10 points and never looked back, extending the lead to more than 20 points on a four-point play when Boynton hit his second 3-pointer of the night while being fouled with 11:28 left in the opening half and converted the free throw to put UF up 26-5.

The lead would reach 31 by the time the halftime horn blew, with the Gators scoring the last six points of the half from the foul line to take a decisive 54-23 lead into the locker room.

The second half was just more of the same as the Gators pulled further and further ahead, with the lead ballooning to 50, 91-41, with 1:26 left to play.

One thing that definitely jumped out was the Gators' improved depth. As expected, Donovan started the quintet of sophomore Erving Walker at point guard, Boynton at shooting guard, senior Dan Werner at small forward, junior Alex Tyus at power forward and junior transfer Vernon Macklin at center. But he substituted early and often, playing nine players in the first five minutes of the contest. By halftime, 10 different Gators had played and nine of them had scored. By the end of the night, all 10 Gator players had scored, with Tyus and Ray Shipman each scoring 10 points to give the Gators four players in double figures.

Tyus led the Gators with nine rebounds, while Chandler Parsons added seven boards.

Freshman Erik Murphy had nine points and six rebounds as the inside trio of Macklin, Kenny Kadji and Murphy controlled the paint, something UF had been weak at the past two seasons. The trio combined for 22 points and 15 rebounds, with Donovan noting that if UF can get that kind of performance out of the post, good things lie ahead.

Kadji was particularly impressive off the bench, blocking three shots on defense.

"If you look at Kadji, Murphy and Macklin as a committee, in terms of their points, rebounds and what they did, I thought it was pretty good," Donovan said. "That's the way we will probably attack that position, by committee."

Walker looked solid running the offense, dishing out a game-high nine assists with no turnovers and adding 16 points from the floor in a game-high 29 minutes of action. Three of his first six assists resulted in Gator dunks, including a beautiful alley-oop pass to Tyus for one of his three first-half stuffs.

Boynton, meanwhile, was as good as advertised, hitting 7-of-14 shots from the floor including 5-of-9 from 3-point range, while adding six rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Donovan was impressed by his new backcourt duo.

"Erving, from end line to end line, is as fast a player as I have ever coached," Donovan said. "I trust him and I think he knows what I want. But this is my 14tth season, and I don't know if I have ever had two guys in the backcourt that are that fast and that explosive. I have really been trying to emphasize for those two guys to go and push it and keep attacking. With those two guys, we definitely want them to play more up-tempo."

Florida shot 53 percent from the field for the game while holding the Lions to just 22.7 percent shooting. UF also owned a 51-38 rebounding edge, finished with 20 assists as a team, shot 40 percent (8-for-20) from beyond the arc and was solid from the free throw line, connecting on 17-of-22 attempts (77.3 percent) including a 15-of-16 effort in the first half.

The Gators return to the court Monday, Nov. 9, for their second and last exhibition game against Webber International at 7 p.m.

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