SUNRISE — Billy Donovan admits he's always a little concerned when his players return to play in their hometown because he knows how much they want to perform well. Saturday afternoon was Kenny Boynton's homecoming opportunity.
The junior guard took Donovan's advice to "let the game come to you," hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 22 points to help the No. 13 Gators to an 84-64 win over No. 22 Texas A&M in front of 11,262 in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. Boynton was named the tournament's MVP for the second straight season.
"It's always great to come back home and have a great performance," Boynton said. "This is our third year here. The first year we lost, but last year we won, so I think I played well overall, but I'm more happy with the win."
The game was expected to test Florida's high-powered offense against a top-level defense. The Gators (8-2) entered the game ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring, and Texas A&M (8-2) was holding opponents to an average 44 points per game in their past five games and ranked No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage defense.
Florida opened up a 20-4 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first half and led 50-25 at halftime.
"When we got the scouting report," said UF freshman guard Bradley Beal, who had 16 points and four rebounds, "they told us we were going to be limited on offense because their defense was so good. But when we spaced the floor out so well, we found there were a lot of holes in their defense, and we got a lot of open shots and a lot of drives in the lane for open layups."
The Aggies, playing their first ranked opponent of the season, struggled early, going 0-for-7 from the field to open the game, and they didn't score their first field goal until Khris Middleton's layup with 11:59 remaining in the first half.
"Their quickness and athleticism gave us a lot of problems," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
The Gators scored just 34 points in the second half and allowed the Aggies to shoot 55.6 percent from 3-point range, which Donovan said proves there's still work to be done.
"I though it was an okay second half offensively for us, and we still scored 84 points," he said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement. … We've got to be able to play whole halves."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]