No. 11 Florida, Kenny Boynton to take on LSU

Advocate staff photo by GAVIN JACKSON Photo shot on 2/20/11 --- Trax #00024072A---  Slug: LSU Florida bkc ---   Florida guard Kenny Boynton (1) tries to get past LSU guard Daron Populist (24) during the first half at the Pete Maravich Center on Feb. 20, 2011. Florida beat LSU 68-61.
Advocate staff photo by GAVIN JACKSON Photo shot on 2/20/11 --- Trax #00024072A--- Slug: LSU Florida bkc --- Florida guard Kenny Boynton (1) tries to get past LSU guard Daron Populist (24) during the first half at the Pete Maravich Center on Feb. 20, 2011. Florida beat LSU 68-61.

Florida’s Boynton has worked through ups and downs

This footage of Florida guard Kenny Boynton is too old to be spliced into the cut-ups shown in LSU scouting sessions.

It’s a slickly produced highlight segment from American Heritage School, Boynton’s alma mater in suburban Miami. Speaking into the camera, Boynton, a sophomore at the time, says he is suffering from a calf injury.

Cut next to Boynton pulling up off ball screens and easily lofting in 3-pointers from the top of the arc.

Dubbed over the mundane highlights, coach Danny Herz hints at what will unfold over the next three minutes.

“You could kind of tell,” Herz said. “He has a twinkle in his eye when he kind of feels it.”

Cue up a run of three more highlights: a deep 3 from the right wing, a pull-up at the free-throw line and a floater near the left block.

“I knew I was on,” Boynton said. “It was just me and the crowd then. I didn’t know the player that was guarding me.”

With 1:24 left in the fourth quarter of a rout against Dunbar High, Boynton corrals a tipped rebound on the left wing and without hesitation hoists in another 3 — setting a City of Palms Tournament record with 61 points in a victory.

Six years removed, Boynton, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior, reprises his role as LSU (9-3, 0-1 SEC) host No. 11 Florida (11-2, 1-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center: a man undaunted to fire up shots and pump in points no matter if foes switch screens, get a hand in his field of vision or clutch his jersey to prevent him from catching a feed from a fellow Gator.

As LSU senior guard Charles Carmouche said, it’s the absence of a facet that defines Boynton, who paces Florida at 13.3 points per game but is shooting just 39.1 percent.

“He doesn’t have a conscience,” Carmouche said, “or at least I don’t think he does.”

The itchy trigger finger explains why Boynton, who shot 40.7 percent from the 3-point line last season, continues to launch a team-leading 85 attempts — roughly seven per game ­— despite seeing his accuracy fall off 7 percentage points.

Over a six-game stretch this season, the All-SEC second-team pick sank only 7 of 39 tries, including clanking all five attempts in a win at
Marquette.

“For Kenny, who’s always been a team guy but has a high-level expectation of how he needs to play to help our team win, there was a lot of talk going into our next game that he was struggling shooting the basketball — and he was,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But being in this league and being in this level for three years, he’s gone through some streaks and ups and downs and understands what it takes to work through those.”

But it didn’t slow Boynton, whose 270 3-point attempts last season were second only to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins in the SEC. Boynton is trending toward a similar total this season.

But his struggles stirred the question: What’s wrong with Boynton? And is his absent accuracy reason for him to override his instincts and pass up looks?

Nope.

Consider Boynton’s efforts Jan. 6 against overmatched Yale, when he hit 8 of 10 3-pointers en route to a season-high 26 points to key the Gators to a needed balm after a lethargic 17-point victory against Air Force and a neutral-court loss to Kansas State.

“The biggest thing for Kenny is mixing it up,” Donovan said. “Early in the game, he really drove the ball, attacked on some close-outs and got in the lane. After doing that several times, it softened up the defense trying to contain him on the drive.”

The nonconference portion of Florida’s schedule served as two months of transition for Boynton, who had to operate as the Gators’ point guard for a three-game span while filling in for junior Scottie Wilbekin after he broke a finger.

Wilbekin returned against Air Force to his pass-first role, but Donovan said platooning Boynton forced him to oscillate between two mentalities: scorer and distributor.

“When he gets back to the point, he’s a little more
consumed with, ‘Here’s what I need to do for everybody else,’ ”
Donovan said. “That’s new for him.”

Now capable, and willing, to put the ball on the floor and work off the dribble, he poses a conundrum for LSU.

“He doesn’t have to work as hard at the point bringing it up,” coach Johnny Jones said. “It’s allowed him to get his feet set and get good looks. He’s a tremendous shooter, and he’s special. It’s been great for him to play off the ball.”

If Boynton were content to simply work off the ball and through screens, handing the rangier Carmouche, who is 6-4 and 190 pounds, the assignment would seem natural. He could focus on denying Boynton the chance to catch the ball, and he has longer limbs to shoot over.

It’s a task Carmouche said he fully expected.

“It’s another assignment,” he said. “Play him honest, stick with your principles and get into him and try to make him feel uncomfortable.”

But if Boynton shows an emerging desire to attack the rim, deploying Anthony Hickey, who leads the nation at 3.5 steals per game, on Boynton might also make sense, perhaps flustering Boynton in a part of his game that is not as developed.

Jones said the choice wasn’t binary; he’ll take a multifaceted approach to halting Boynton.

“You have to try and defend them more so by committee,” he said. “You have to give them some different looks throughout the night. Any time you throw the same thing at them, they get consistent.

“They’re a smart enough team to where they can take advantage of it.”

Donovan didn’t criticize Boynton’s instinct, only that he should have “shot-faked and put it on the floor” more often in certain situations.

“Him having that balance and understanding of when to take those shots helps him,” Donovan said. “The one thing for him is if he can hit one or two shots, then he has a better chance at making some of the tougher ones.”

Changing methods aside, Carmouche knows Boynton’s intentions don’t flag.

“He’s just going to let it go,” Carmouche said. “That’s what he’s been doing since he’s been there.

“Whether it’s a make or miss, he keeps bringing it.”