Boynton out of slump, ready for Georgia

Boynton hit eight three-pointers on Sunday

Kenny Boynton is the first one to admit his recent shooting slump was all in his head. In the midst of a 4-for-39 stretch from behind the three-point line, the senior guard showed progress when he hit three from behind the arc against Air Force. That was just the start. Boynton went 8-for-10 against Yale on Sunday to get out of his slump just in time for the start of conference play.

The struggle was all in his head. As the misses continued to pile up, Boynton clouded his mind by thinking about what could've been different. On one missed shot, he avoided an opportunity to take the ball to the basket. On another, he missed a wide-open teammate on the perimeter.

What would've happened if he took advantage of the lane to the basket or the open teammate?

His mind ran crazy. As it continued to run, the pressure began to build. Before the senior knew how to stop it, his mind started to take over his game. A simple ‘keep shooting' from Donovan before Sunday's game at Yale changed that.

"It was mental," Kenny Boynton said. "It's a mindset of thinking about missing. (Sunday), I just played instead of thinking about it. I knew my time would come."

The time came in a big way. Not only did Boynton go 8-for-10 from behind the three-point line on Sunday, he also broke the school record with 290 career three-pointers made, snapping Lee Humphrey's previous record of 288.

Breaking the slump for Boynton was a product of ignoring results. He has proven throughout his four years on campus that he can shoot, but they weren't falling in recent games. He continued to receive encouragement from coaches and teammates to continue shooting and that shots would start to fall.

He turned on the film to see what was going wrong. A quick check at the mechanics of his shot looked fine, but the film showed some other issues. The shots he was taking were happening behind the three-point line too often. Donovan estimated 60% of Boynton's shots were three-pointers, and teams were starting to pick up on it.

Then came the new position. The departure of Erving Walker pushed Boynton to the point guard position at times. It brought more issues to deal with. Instead of thinking about how to get the ball and score, Boynton was now trying to figure out how to maximize the talents of the other four players on the floor.

"I think the thing that people don't really talk about because they isolate the fact that he didn't shoot the ball well — it's a totally different mindset when you're playing the point guard position," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "When you're anywhere else on the floor, you can kind of get focused and locked in on yourself and what you need to do and what your job and responsibilities are. When Kenny's off the ball a lot of times, he is in situations where he can do what he does — he's aggressive, he can attack, he can be difficult coming off screens and putting it on the floor.

"But now all of a sudden you come down as a point guard, and you've got to be consumed with four other people. What happens is you're less focused on yourself."

Donovan has tried to play Boynton off the ball more in recent games and thinks it has contributed to the slump-busting game at Yale. The other focus was on shot selection. Boynton was settling for long three-pointers or contested three-pointers with defenders running at him.

He was patient and avoided them against Yale. His first three-point attempt came in the middle of the first half and was wide open but missed. The floodgates opened late in the first half when he hit a three-pointer and added seven more in the second half.

"What happens for any player is when you make your first couple shots, you have a tendency to take a little bit more difficult shots as time goes on," Donovan said. "When you take difficult shots early and the ball doesn't go in the basket, it kind of sets a tone for you during the course of the game."

When the shots started to fall in the second half, a familiar feeling came back to Boynton. It's the one he has had the first three years of his career when he has been a feared shooter from the outside. It's the feeling that he can't miss.

In the second half against Yale, he couldn't.

And when that starts to happen, the energy finds its way to his teammates and to the Florida bench. It was evident as the Gators started to pull away during the second half.

"For him shooting the ball like, that it gives us confidence," Florida forward Will Yeguete said. "When we press and hit threes like that and KB is excited, it changes the game and gives everyone more confidence."

Donovan spoke during the early parts of the slump about how good it would end up being for Boynton. He didn't want his senior guard to have the tough times he was experiencing on the court during his final season in Gainesville, but when he broke out of it, Donovan thought Boynton would be better off for it.

He picked the perfect time to end the slump. The Gators open Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday by hosting Georgia, and their best scorer couldn't be feeling better on the floor.

"It definitely came at the right time," Boynton said. "I needed a game like (Sunday). Hopefully it's back after that game."

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