One day after taking down the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, Florida Gators basketball (6-0) defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-2) to win the 2009 Legends Classic in Atlantic City, NJ. Earning instant credibility and a championship trophy to match, the Gators look to be back in the Top 25 on Monday for the first time since Jan. 19 and are in the conversation as a possible NCAA tournament team.
Freshman guard Kenny Boynton led Florida with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting while redshirt junior transfer center Vernon Macklin added 14 points of his own on 7-of-9 shooting with a team-high eight rebounds. Sophomore point guard Erving Walker scored 11 points on .500 shooting from beyond the arc with five assists, but senior forward Dan Werner led the team with six dishes. Macklin’s effort was his most impressive of the season while junior Fs Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons had their least effective games. Both still went 3-6 on their own with six and seven points, respectively.
“Even through fatigue and dealing with the emotion of last night, I thought our guys came out and grinded the game out and found a way to win the game,” Gators head coach Billy Donovan said. Walker concurred. “We knew that we could compete with these teams, but to come out and actually beat them shows us that we could play with anybody in the country and we just want to keep it going,” he said. Walker was also named the tournament MVP partially due to his winning three-pointer against the Spartans.
“We came out and we wanted to show everyone that last night’s game wasn’t a fluke,” Boynton said. “We heard people were saying we were soft. We basically wanted to put pressure on both of these teams early and get the win.” There was nothing soft about either Florida performance over the weekend, as the team continues to use stiffing defense and efficient shooting to defeat its opponents.
Florida basketball takes on the Florida A&M Rattlers on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as part of a double-header with the women’s teams. The Gators’ following three games will be against the Jacksonville Dolphins, No. 10/9 Syracuse Orange and Richmond Spiders at three neutral sites in the state of Florida.