WASHINGTON – If you simply look at the box score or read a game recap from Florida’s 67-48 win over American on Sunday afternoon, you will probably get the feeling that Florida struggled.
The Gators didn’t really take control of the game until late in the first half, heading into the break up nine. After building a 15 point lead in the second half, they allowed American to get as close as seven. And this coming from a team that was supposed to compete not only for an SEC title, but potentially a Final Four as well.
It wasn’t a dominating performance by any stretch of the imagination.
It was, however, a bit promising.
The knock on the Gators the past two seasons is that they rely too heavily on a back court that is terribly inefficient. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton are both capable of being big time scorers, but neither is a pure point guard. You’re as likely to see a contested three of the dribble as you are an assist from those two. As head coach Billy Donovan said earlier in the week, “We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better.”
This season, however, you can see Billy Donovan’s club starting to make the transition to a team that is more balanced. Chandler Parsons has developed into the kind of talent that will garner attention from teams picking in the first round of this June’s NBA Draft. Vernon Macklin has shown flashes of being a reliable scoring option on the block. And between Alex Tyus, Erik Murphy, Patric Young, and Will Yeguette, Donovan has plenty of front court depth.
The key, however, lies with Boynton and Walker.
Are they willing to sacrifice shots in order to get their teammates better shots?
Today, they were.
Florida finished the game with six players taking between seven and nine shots from the floor. Four of those guys had between 12 and 16 points. Walker led the way with 16 points, but he only needed seven shots to do so. Six of those shots were threes, and each of the six threes that Walker took were good shots. They were in rhythm, they were open, and each of the four he hit were big. For example, it was Walker’s three in transition that ended American’s 9-0 run which cut a 16 point lead to 45-38.
The same could be said for Boynton. He took six threes and, with the exception of the three he took at the halftime buzzer, its difficult to label any of the shots he took as bad shots.
He just didn’t make any of them. Boynton finished 0-9 from the floor, 0-6 from three, and didn’t score a single point. But he also notched an 0-fer in another column on the box score — turnovers — while also adding seven assists.
Boynton may have gone 0-9 from the field, but he took the kind of shots that Donovan can live with him taking. Boynton is too good to continually miss that many open looks.
The biggest issue with the Gators right now is that they seem to be a team without an identity. Is this Walker and Boynton’s team? Is Parsons, the most versatile player are arguably the best playmaker, the leader? Is this a group that relies on their deep but inconsistent front court?
The answer to that question will likely change as the season progresses.
But the one thing we do know right now is that Florida will be at their best when Walker and Boynton are playing, and making shots, within the offense.