Boynton Leads Gators to Second Win

First-year starters Kenny Boynton and Vernon Macklin had 22 and 15 points, respectively, and junior Chandler Parsons registered a double-double off the bench with a 15-point, 12-rebound effort as the Florida Gators improved to 2-0 on the season with a 69-49 win over visiting Georgia Southern before a crowd of 10,006 at the O'Connell Center Wednesday night.

For the second straight outing, UF won despite a so-so offensive performance, using a strong defensive effort to pull away from the Eagles (1-2), who played the Gators tough all night and trailed by only eight, 55-47, with 3:54 left to play before the host team closed the game on a 14-2 run to record the 20-point victory.

"I was really, really proud of our guys tonight," said UF head coach Billy Donovan. "Two years ago when we played Georgia Southern, we had a shooting performance like we did tonight, and I think we ended up winning by one or two points at the buzzer. But tonight we were able to win by 20 and really be pretty woeful on offense shooting the ball. Our guys won with their defense, and you know I've made a point to emphasize that, talk about it and find a commitment to it." The game was the first of four the Gators are playing as part of the 2009 Legends Classic, a 12-team tournament featuring teams from 12 different conferences.

Georgia Southern, which came out playing a slow, deliberate style of offense and a very physical defense, controlled the tempo throughout the first half. The Eagles spotted UF an early 4-2 lead, then gained the upper hand and held onto it until an emphatic dunk by Macklin with 3:10 remaining in the half gave the Gators, who missed 16 of their first 19 shots from the field, a 22-21 lead.

UF took a slim 26-25 halftime lead, only to watch the Eagles score five quick points to open the second half and retake the lead at 30-26. But that's when Boynton and Macklin ignited a 22-6 Gator run that gave UF a double-digit lead. Boynton started it with a breakaway dunk, then following a free throw by Alex Tyus, Boynton scored on a layup, fed Macklin for another dunk, then scored a conventional three-point play inside. Boynton, who was 9-of-13 from the foul stripe, capped the run later with a pair of free throws.

"Coach has been stressing to me to go out there and stay aggressive on offense, so that's what I'm trying to do," Boynton said. "We were struggling a little bit, so I felt like if I could just score a few points, maybe it would get the team going, and I think it did."

"I love coaching Kenny," Donovan noted. "He's a great kid with a great drive and passion to win. He has a takeover mentality when things aren't going well, and I want him to channel that like he did tonight. He really stepped up."

Once again, UF struggled badly from three-point range, finishing just 2-of-16 and not recording a trey until Parsons rimmed one in with 6:12 left to play. Boynton added the other later while being fouled with 2:38 remaining, converting the free throw for a four-point play.

The Eagles, who sent South Carolina to the line 44 times in a 90-66 loss Monday night, were whistled for 32 fouls against the Gators. UF did not take full advantage, converting just 29-of-43 attempts (67.4 percent), but still outscored the Eagles by 20 at the charity stripe.

UF outrebounded the Eagles by a 51-33 margin, with 22 of the Gators' boards on the offensive end.

"I still think our team has a lot of areas we can get better at," Donovan said. "We've won two games, and we've done it by going 3-for-32 (actually 3-for-29) from the three-point line. In years past, with the type of offense we've had, that probably would have spelled disaster early in the year for us. But it's been our defense that has carried us, and I think we can continue to correct things and get better on the offensive end of the floor."

The Gators will entertain Troy University Friday night at 7 in their second game of the Legends Classic.

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