Walker, Boynton lead No. 13 Florida to 85-67 win
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida coach Billy Donovan has fond memories of Veterans Memorial Arena. He’s 7-0 there, including two wins in the 2006 NCAA tournament that turned out to be the first steps in winning consecutive national titles.
He’d like to book another trip to Jacksonville in March. If the Gators keep shooting like they did Friday night, it could happen.
Erving Walker scored 18 points, Kenny Boynton added 15 and No. 13 Florida used 12 3-pointers to beat Jacksonville 85-67.
“They’ve got to shoot the ball with confidence,” Donovan said. “If those guys have looks, they’ve got to shoot the ball. It’s good for our team.”
It certainly was Friday.
The Gators (8-0) made eight of their first 12 shots from behind the arc to start the second half. That’s more 3-pointers than they hit in six games this season. It also helped them blow open a close game.
Jacksonville sliced into a 12-point lead and made it 60-56 on Lehmon Colbert’s baseline jumper. But the Gators pulled away from long range. Walker, Boynton, Dan Werner and Chandler Parsons all hit two 3s in the second half.
“It’s definitely nice for a change,” said Boynton, who entered the game shooting 18 percent on 3s. “We all knocked down shots when we needed them.”
The Gators won their ninth straight in the series and improved to 8-0 for just the third time in school history. Florida started 17-0 in 2005-06, the year of the first national championship.
Vernon Macklin added 16 points and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Werner chipped in 13 points, and Parsons finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
Ayron Hardy led Jacksonville (0-5) with 16 points and six rebounds, while Travis Cohn added 15 points.
The Dolphins kept it close much of the game thanks mostly to 16 offensive rebounds, eight steals and five blocked shots.
“That’s our makeup,” coach Cliff Warren said. “We have to fight, scrap, claw to go get rebounds. We knew we were going to be undermanned size-wise, so that’s how we have to play.”
It worked for a while.
But the Dolphins faded down the stretch—maybe showing some wear after a tough season-opening stretch. Jacksonville played Florida State, California and South Carolina on the road—the toughest schedule in the nation, according to the latest Sagarin ratings.
Nonetheless, the Dolphins lost their home opener for the second straight year.
Florida fans outnumbered the home crowd significantly, no surprise since the campus is just 75 miles away and there are thousands of Florida fans living in the Jacksonville area.
The Gators hope to be back here in March for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. If so, they can hope the nets are as friendly.
Florida was 12 of 20 from 3-point range, a better clip (60 percent) than it shot from inside the arc (57 percent). The Gators entered the game with 39 3s in seven games and had not shot better than 37 percent from 3-point range in any game this season.
They won several games, including upsets of Florida State and Michigan State last week, with staunch defense and a relentless press. This one, though, came courtesy of the 3-point line.
“Our No. 1 priority this year is going to be defense,” Walker said. “We know you cannot shoot the ball well every night and we want to stay in games with defense. Of course, everybody wants to shoot the ball well, and when it’s going in, that feels nice.”
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