No one had an answer for it.
It couldn’t be explained why Kenny Boynton was in the worst scoring slump of his career.
Florida faced a 10-point deficit with 16:05 remaining and the future looked grim for the Gators.
But then, the senior answered the call. After being held scoreless in the first half for the second game in a row, senior Kenny Boynton ignited the Gators in the second half with 16 points, sparking a 15-0 Gator run. That fire was just what the team needed as the Florida Gators grinded out a 61-51 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC tournament semi-final matchup here in Nashville.
Florida trailed by three at halftime after struggling on offense in the first half, shooting 40.7% from the floor and only managing 25 points. Florida had trouble down low managing Alabama big man Nick Jacobs, who finished the day with 11 points and four rebounds. Alabama guards Trevor Lacy (11 points) and Trevor Releford (12 points) tried to keep the Tide in it late but fell short. Patric Young battled tough all day long on the block with Jacobs and center Moussa Gueye. Young fell just short of a double double as he tallied 13 points and nine rebounds for the Gators.
At halftime, Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton both said Donovan gave a passionate and inspired speech to his team. “He wanted us to know that we’re playing for something, he didn’t want us to leave here knowing we didn’t leave it all on the floor” Senior Mike Rosario said about Donovan’s halftime speech.
“You’re a senior in college now, it’s time to fight,” Donovan said to fourth year senior Kenny Boynton. “You’ve always fought and I’ve got great confidence in you, but you gotta fight right now. Fight through what you’re going through. Right now I don’t see that fight, I don’t see that look on your face.”
Donovan was happy to see his senior answer the call, “He got that look back, where his motor is going and again, his freshmen year his motor would be running like that and there was no telling when or where he would shoot it from. He’s learned from his freshmen year. I didn’t want him to lose confidence in himself but I told him, I don’t have confidence in you if you’re not gonna fight.”
And fight the senior did, as he walked off the court following the Gator’s win to “Kenny Boynton” chants from the Florida faithful here in Nashville.
It was Boynton who took over the game in the second half. Boynton hit two free throws with 14:56 left to play and then racked up nine more points in a three-minute span. “As a team we needed that spark, we got that from our senior in Kenny.” Mike Rosario said.
The Florida team struggled from three-point range all day after shooting lights out yesterday. Florida shot 3-17 for a dismal 17.6% from bonus land. Credit has to be given to an Alabama team that played inspired basketball and tough defense for most of the game. Just as the game in Gainesville earlier this season, Bama couldn’t manage to hold on to a late game lead and Florida found the will to fight back. As Alabama guard Trevor Releford pointed out, “Boynton stepped up to the plate…he provided the spark and they built on it.
What’s next for the Gators? Florida will play in the SEC championship game Sunday at 1pm against the winner of today’s Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game. Looking past this weekend, Donovan made it clear he was proud to see his team battle back for a win today. “You have to accept and embrace the challenge to get to the championship this time of year. Our team went through that struggle today. These guys fought and battled when things weren’t going their way.”