Boynton, Walker in control for UF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Lost in Florida’s impressive blowout victories over Virginia and Norfolk State is the improved play of guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.

The two still aren’t shooting well from 3-point range -- a combined 3-for-17 -- but they have been much more under control in terms of shot selection and not driving into the lane without a plan and getting caught without anywhere to go with the ball.

Walker has been particularly effective. He has five assists and four turnovers in the two games, but he has been smart with the basketball in the lane. He hasn’t tried to drive and shoot over much bigger players -- like he did against Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.

He’s playing his smartest basketball of the season, and it’s coming at the perfect time, with the Gators (25-10) heading into Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with Marquette (27-7). Even though this is Walker’s third season as a starter, it’s the first in which he hasn't had an experienced frontcourt, and that makes a difference, UF coach Billy Donovan said.

"Our team was totally different [last season]," Donovan said. "What happens -- and it happened for Erving for two years -- was he was playing a certain way and then all of the sudden things had to change for him for us to reach our potential and get better. And I think he went through an adjustment period and it always wasn’t easy on Erving.

"I think he at times had gotten frustrated that he wanted to do what I asked him to do but maybe got a little tied up in when to shoot, when not to shoot, those kind of things."

Walker is a good 3-point shooter, and Donovan wants him to shoot when he has an open shot, but Walker has sometimes had trouble reconciling that with running the offense. That would sometimes affect his demeanor, Donovan said. In turn, it affected the team.

"It’s been hard because a lot of times he doesn’t know where his shots are coming from because the ball is in his hands because he’s got to run the offense," Donovan said. "I think he’s learning and growing, and my biggest thing with Erving is he’s got a really, really competitive mindset and when he’s got that look on his face it can impact our team. And sometimes when he gets a little frustrated it impacts our team."

Nobody was more frustrated than Boynton through the past three weeks. He struggled with his outside shot -- going just 4-for-16 -- in the three games leading up to the NCAA tournament, and then went 0-for-5 in the victory over Virginia. Against Norfolk State, however, Boynton drove the ball to the basket more instead of settling for 3-point shots.

He finished 7-of-12 from the field, which included a 2-for-7 mark from 3-point range. He hit his first 3-point attempt of the game and that seemed to spark the 6-foot-1 junior. He finished with 20 points, the most since he had 20 against Auburn on Feb. 21.

"I have no idea why Kenny Boynton went through a shooting slump there, and all of a sudden he drives to the basket and he knocks down his first 3 and kind of really gets going offensively," Donovan said. "Sometimes that’s hard to figure out."

Donovan does know this, though: Boynton and Walker are starting to roll again.