TAMPA — When the game began, Kenny Boynton knew he was close to moving up in the Florida basketball record books, but frankly the senior guard had no idea how close. For him, winning was the main objective in a game against Middle Tennessee State. The rest would just be a nice addition.
Boynton and his teammates got both. No. 10 Florida (3-0) relied on 46 percent shooting from the field and got to the free-throw line 29 times to defeat MTSU 66-45 Sunday afternoon in front of 7,161 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Boynton, who didn't score a field goal in the first half, scored the Gators' final 13, finishing with a game-high 20 points, four rebounds and two assists. Along the way, he moved past the late Dwayne Schintzius — a Brandon native — into sole possession of sixth place on Florida's all-time scoring list with 1,641. He needs 450 points this season to move into No. 1.
"I definitely want No. 1," Boynton said after the game. "It (Sunday) meant something to me. … I didn't even know when I got it, but it definitely means something to me to move up on the list. It means a lot. I know the guy I passed, Dwayne, was a Tampa native. To do it here means a lot, also. But really, it's better to get the win."
The double-digit victory didn't come without a fight. The Gators struggled to get into a flow in the first half in an extremely physical game. With trouble getting the ball inside, Florida shot 4-of-15 from 3-point range in the first half, and though MTSU (2-1) shot only 37 percent from the field in the half, the Gators led just 29-26 at halftime.
In the second half, UF relied on its inside game, with Will Yeguete and center Patric Young combining for 20 points and Yeguete adding 13 rebounds.
"No question that was a big part of the second half," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "In the first half their guards were really pressuring our guards, so they had the floor very extended. Our post guys did not do a good job finishing plays or even making plays. But it was one of those games (where) it was a 20-minute, second-half grind-out game."
UF held the Blue Raiders, out of the Sun Belt Conference, to seven points on 10 shots in the first five minutes of the second half and were in the double bonus with 10:16 left. But Florida shot just 17-of-29 from the free-throw line.
The game marked the return of junior guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was suspended the first three games for a violation of team rules. Wilbekin had eight points, three assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes.
"Honestly, it felt kind of weird out there at first, being out there playing and missing three games," he said, "but once I got into the rhythm, it felt good just to be back with my teammates and just be playing basketball."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]