Florida grounds Air Force 78-61 in Sunrise

In front of a crowd filled with orange and blue even though Saturday’s contest was billed as a neutral site game, No. 11/14 Florida Gators basketball (9-2) put together a strong second half to ground the Air Force Falcons (8-3) in the 2012 Orange Bowl Classic at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

Florida, behind three second-half three-pointers from senior guard Kenny Boynton, outscored Air Force by 15 and hit 70 percent of its shots in the final 20 minutes, pulling away for a 78-61 victory.

Boynton, a native of Pompano Beach, FL, entered the game marred in a massive slump (13-of-51 from the field, 4-of-32 from downtown over the last five games) but broke out of it just in time. He went 3-of-7 from three and a perfect 3-of-3 from the line for 14 points, adding three assists and not coughing up a single turnover.

He broke out of a similar down spell at the OBBC in 2010 and was also named the event’s most valuable player one year ago. This year, he led a 12-3 scoring stretch with a pair of treys to give his team a 10-point second-half lead that they never relinquished.

Joining Boynton in leading the Gators was senior forward Erik Murphy, who was voted the contest’s MVP after registering a game-highs of 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks. He shot 8-of-10 from the floor and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.

Though the Falcons stuck to what they were good at and succeeded in keeping the game close by going 9-for-20 from three, UF blew it open in the second half with a 36-24 advantage on the boards and an overwhelming 38 points in the paint.

Senior forward Patric Young also scored in double-digits for Florida, posting 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four boards and a rejection.

Air Force standout senior G Michael Lyons registered team-highs of 11 points and seven rebounds but went just 3-of-12 from the floor in the game.

The Gators will conclude their non-conference schedule after the New Year by travelling to Yale on Jan. 6 for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Network.

Read the Florida-Air Force post-game report…after the break!

BOYNTON BOUNCES BACK

Slump over? It’s too early to tell, but Boynton came through in the clutch once again in front of his family and friends in Sunrise. After going 0-for in the OBBC as a freshman, Boynton has either broken out of a slump in a big way (2010, 2012) or won the MVP award (2011) every time he has visited South Florida. He explained after the game why he was able to bounce back so well.

“I just tried to make sure the game came to me,” Boynton said. “I watched a lot of film with Coach [Billy] Donovan with the [contested] shots that I’ve been taking. I just tried to take open ones, and that’s what I tried to do in the second half. […] It felt good, to come out and play an all-around good game. We were definitely happy with the win. We had a couple of tough practices. So we’re just basically trying to win out from here.”

Donovan was equally happy to see his senior back in the swing of things. “I got a lot of confidence in Kenny. This is not the first time he has gone through something like this,” he said. “I’ve always told him when he’s having a tough time shooting the basketball, the best thing he can do is take good available shots. When he gets off good available shots and he makes a couple, then he can start taking a little bit more difficult shots because he’s kind of in that rhythm. … It was good to see the ball go in.”

He was also pleased with how the team responded after losing two of its last three games. “I thought we got better the last couple of days recognizing each other’s strengths, talents, abilities,” he said per the paper. “We showed that a little bit more in the second half.”

MISSING IN ACTION

The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway noted after the game that freshman G Dillon Graham did not participate because he was sick. “Graham traveled with the team and took part in the morning shootaround but felt under the weather by gametime,” he wrote.

Though he did play on Saturday, junior F Will Yeguete was absent for long stretches during the game. Donovan explained after the contest that he has not been playing up to standard recently and therefore a decision was made to go with freshman G Michael Frazier at times in the second half.

“We gotta get more out of him. We’re not getting enough out of Will at all. The energy, the defense, the deflections, the running the floor, kind of being all over the place, we’re just not getting that form him right now,” Donovan said. “If we’re not going to get that from him, he is limited offensively where at least Frazier stretches the defense for us. Will has got to go back to who he’s been here. When he does that, he changes our team, as does Casey Prather. I think both of those guys have to embrace their role of being energy, hustle plays, loose balls, a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. We have not gotten from him really since the Arizona game what we need to get out of him. We have some depth and we can play other people.”

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