GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The first couple of weeks of March haven’t gone well for Florida guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.
The Gators’ starting backcourt has had trouble offensively in UF’s three games so far this month.
Boynton averages 16.3 points per game heading into Friday’s NCAA tournament second-round game against Virginia, but he’s only scoring 7.7 points per game in March. He’s shooting just 23.1 percent from the field (6-for-26) and 25.0 percent from 3-point range (4-for-16).
However, Boynton is 7-for-7 from the free-throw line -- which included three huge ones in the closing seconds against Alabama -- and he has eight assists and just one turnover in the three games.
Still, the Gators need the 6-foot-1 junior to return to the offensive form that had him averaging 16.9 points per game and shooting 44.9 percent from 3-point range in nine February games.
"Kenny obviously had a tough time," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought he had some pretty decent looks that didn’t go down, but in the Alabama game I thought he made some really big shots for us in crucial times. Certainly the three free throws at the end of the game were big.
"I’ve got great confidence in Kenny that when he’s open he should shoot the ball and take those shots. I think like anything else when the ball’s not going in the basket, you cannot get consumed with it. You’ve got to be able to do other things, and we need to get him and Erving and Brad [Beal] and all of our perimeter players to continue to focus on taking, shooting open 3s, drives to the basket that are there, and putting our focus on the defensive end of the floor."
Walker’s stats this month haven’t been much better than Boynton’s. Walker, who is averaging 12.1 points per game entering the Virginia game, is also averaging 7.7 points per game and is shooting 30 percent (9-for-30) from the field and 29.4 percent (5-for-17) from 3-point range in March. He’s had 13 assists and five turnovers.
Part of the reason for the duo’s struggles is the fact that the Gators played teams that are long and athletic in Kentucky (twice) and Alabama. Boynton and the 5-8 Walker struggle against teams like that because of their size disadvantage in the backcourt.
"Kentucky’s length, their size, has impacted our guards," Donovan said. "I don’t think that that necessarily has been new to anybody."
While Boynton and Walker have struggled offensively, Erik Murphy and Beal have flourished. Murphy scored 53 points (17.7 per game) and made 7-of-14 3-point attempts in the three games. Beal averaged 13.7 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds while dishing out a team-high 14 assists to only two turnovers.