Every coach knows that their best players will go on shooting slumps from time to time. Unfortunately for the Florida Gators, that happened in a big way Wednesday night as senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton combined to make just five shots on 27 attempts from the field and 2-of-15 three-pointers.
However, when head coach Billy Donovan expressed his disappointment in the duo after the game, he was not focused on their percentages but rather how the pair played the game from a mental standpoint.
“Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker tried to take over the game and didn’t try to take it over in the right fashion,” he explained. “Erving Walker should have taken over the game with his passing. As a senior in college, he should not go 3-for-16 from the field. He shouldn’t go 1-for-9 from the three-point line. He’s got to take over the game from different aspects.
“Kenny had a couple tough shots where his first shot of the game was blocked. You got to let the game just kind of happen and come to you and just play based on what the defense is giving you at that point in time.”
While Walker and Boynton were struggling, freshman G Bradley Beal took a different approach. His shot also was not falling early, so he helped facilitate and began taking the ball to the hoop for higher percentage shots. He finished 4-of-9 with as many points as Boynton (nine) along with six rebounds and received some praise from Donovan.
“Brad, I thought, had a great game because he played within himself,” he said.
Donovan does not believe his two veteran guards have developed the same mindset that one of the youngest players on the court joined the team with from day one. “With Kenny and Erving, they’re so competitive. They want to win so bad that they almost say, ‘I want control of this right now, I’m going to take control,’ instead of letting things just happen.”
He would have preferred that the duo concentrate on getting the ball inside to sophomore center Patric Young, who was an efficient 12-of-15 for a career-high 25 points but could have scored more had there been a concentration on feeding him.
“I know we use the 2006 and 2007 teams a lot as reference points, but the one thing I always remember with those guys is that they would laugh and joke. ‘What’s it going to be today? What are they taking away today? Who are they trying to take away today? Are they going to try to take away [Lee] Humphrey today? They going to try to take away [Joakim] Noah or [Al] Horford? Who are they going to try to take away? Are they going to try to take away [Corey] Brewer? What are they going to take away today?’
“They would laugh about it and they had an incredible awareness of going into a game playing with zero intention other than what’s going on. This was a game where Patric Young should have taken 40 shots in the game. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton needed to do a better job of reading what was going on inside the game. Their shooting percentage from the field, although their intentions of wanting to win the game and feeling like they needed to do something [were good], we should have just played out of Patric Young the whole entire night. He had 25 points; he should have had 45 points. We should have got the ball to him much more than we did. There’s got to be a better understanding.
“Like I’ve told those guys, when teams watch film of you playing, they say, ‘Arizona just tired to take away the three-point line and play one-on-one with Patric Young and the guy scored 35 points. We can’t do that.’ The beauty of that team in 2006 and 2007 – it was pick your poison. What are you going to try to do? Who are you going to try to take out of the game? Because you can’t guard it all. We’ve got to have an understanding of what’s going on and then try to take advantage of what’s open. I thought we did a really poor job of that.”
What Walker and Boynton did do was hit some clutch free throws down the stretch when the Gators needed them the most. The duo combined for 11 of Florida’s 15 makes from the line even though the team shot just 47 percent from the charity stripe.
“I don’t even have an answer for that. It was ridiculous. We have good shooters, and we hit them in practice. I don’t know,” Walker said after the contest.
Though Donovan was less concerned about their shooting and more about their recognition, it is not likely that Florida’s guards will shoot that poorly from the field on a regular basis. However, when they do, the way in which Walker and Boynton respond going forward may be indicative of how far the Gators can go this season.