Gators strong 2nd half beats Air Force

Florida outscores Air Force 45-30 in 2nd half

Published On: Dec 29 2012 07:23:23 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 29 2012 08:03:08 PM EST
Florida Gators Basketball
SUNRISE, Fla. -

eviewing recent games and watching shot after shot clank off the rim, Kenny Boynton decided to wait until he was open before trying to shake his slump.

With that, the ball started falling. Boynton made three 3-pointers in the second half, when No. 14 Florida pulled away to beat Air Force 78-61 on Saturday in the second game of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

Boynton had made only 4 of 32 from 3-point range over the previous five games, and coach Billy Donovan advised a change in his approach.

"I spent a lot of time watching film with coach Donovan on the shots I've been taking," Boynton said. "I just tried to take open ones. That's what I tried in the second half."

The senior made three 3s in a span of 8 minutes to break the game open. It was likely Boynton's final college game in his native South Florida, and 20 relatives and friends cheered him on.

"I felt good, coming out and playing an all-around good game," he said.

The Gators (9-2) used their superior size and smothering defense to grind down the Falcons, who shot 48 percent in the first half and 33 percent in the second half.

"A very good Florida team, and we knew that coming in," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We got a little worn down in the second half, and that was because of our physical stature compared to theirs."

The Gators scored 38 points in the paint and had a 36-25 advantage in rebounds against Air Force (8-3), which fell to 2-77 against ranked teams.

Florida State beat Tulsa 82-63 in the first game of the one-day event.

Boynton, who ranks third in career 3-pointers made at Florida with 282, went 3 for 7 from long range and scored 14 points.

"It was good to see the ball go in," Donovan said. "This is not the first time he has gone through something like this. I've always told him when he's having a tough time shooting, the biggest thing he can do is take good available shots. When he makes a couple, then he can start taking a little more difficult shots, because he's in that rhythm."

Florida's Erik Murphy scored 21 points, had seven rebounds and added four assists while missing only two shots in 29 minutes. He was chosen the game's MVP.

"Today was really a complete game for him," Donovan said. "He scored in a lot of different ways."

The Falcons matched the second-best start in school history in their first 10 games but hadn't faced a team of Florida's caliber. Air Force's Michael Lyons was held to 11 points, nine below his average, and he shot only 3 for 14.

Three-point shooting kept the Falcons in the game. They went 9 for 20 from beyond the arc against a team ranked third in the nation in scoring defense.

"We knew coming in they were a good shooting team," Murphy said. "They shoot 3s from all five spots. They were hitting 3s in the first half, and at halftime, coach said we have to guard the 3-point line better. I think we did a better job of that in the second half."

In the second half, the Gators scored 45 points and shot 70 percent.

"We were making better reads and better decisions," Donovan said.

The Falcons forced Florida to be creative on offense early. The Gators' Scottie Wibekin, inbounding under his basket, bounced a pass off a defender's back, stepped onto the court and caught the ball for a wide-open layup.

Boynton sparked a 12-3 spurt when he made two 3-pointers and fed Casey Prather for a layup, putting Florida ahead 47-37. Boynton hit another 3 for a 59-47 lead.

The Falcons hit three early 3-pointers to go up 10-5, but that turned out to be their biggest lead. Florida surged ahead, gave up eight consecutive points to fall behind 27-25, then went ahead to stay on a basket by Mike Rosario shortly before halftime.