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Backcourt mates key for Gators

March 15, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

GAINESVILLE (AP) - Florida guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker share scooter rides across campus, stay after practice to shoot and hang out socially.

They're roommates, teammates and backcourt mates.

They have something else in common: When the undersized duo struggles, so do the 15th-ranked Gators (26-7). Boynton and Walker have shown all season how important guard play is for coach Billy Donovan's team, especially in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Florida expects the same in the NCAA tournament.

"Me and Kenny, we're both confident players and we feel like at some point in the game the shots will go in," Walker said Monday.

If not, Florida usually finds itself in trouble.

Kentucky pretty much shut down the 6-foot-1 Boynton and the 5-foot-7 Walker in the SEC tournament final, holding Boynton to 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting and keeping Walker under double digits for the second time in three meetings.

The Wildcats did it with relatively tall, athletic guards who can play press coverage, disrupt passing lanes and affect shots.

The Gators, the No. 2 seed in the Southeast region, could face similar problems in the NCAA bracket - although it's unlikely to come against 15th-seeded UC-Santa Barbara in the opening round Thursday in Tampa.

The Gauchos (18-13), who won the Big West tournament and earned an automatic berth in the NCAA field, have two 6-foot guards in the starting lineup alongside top scorers Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally.

Walker leads Florida in scoring, averaging 14.4 points a game, and has a knack for hitting deep three-pointers. He also has a team-high 37 steals.

His tendency to drive into the lane with little or no idea what he plans to do with the ball has concerned Donovan all season. Walker has a team-worst 80 turnovers.

Boynton, a sophomore from Pompano Beach, has been the team's best scorer in the second half of the season. He's averaging 14.1 points a game and leads the Gators with 72 three-pointers. Even with the off day against Kentucky, Boynton averaged 18.7 points in the SEC tournament.

The Gators are 17-4 this season when the duo combines for at least 25 points. Maybe more telling, the Gators are 19-2 when Boynton and Walker combine for six or more assists.

"I have a lot of confidence in those guys," Donovan said. "The worst guys to play with are guys that love to shoot the ball and love to score, which every player does, and they don't give it to your team on the defensive end of the floor. That's really a hard pill for your team and the other guys to swallow."

The Gators, especially Boynton and Walker, are well aware of their flaws, but they don't anticipate any changes, not at this time of year.



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