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January 3, 2012Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton were surprised to see an opponent daring them to take 3-point shots.
After all, Florida leads the nation from beyond the arc.
Walker and Boynton weren't sure what to do-except shoot. Good call.
Walker scored 23 points, Boynton added 20 and No. 13 Florida beat UAB 79-61 on Tuesday night behind a season-high 15 3-pointers.
"I don't think anyone's shot terribly so far this year, so as long as we just move the ball and take good ones, I think we can continue to be a great shooting team," Walker said.
The win was Florida's final tuneup before beginning Southeastern Conference play Saturday at Tennessee. Coach Billy Donovan feels good about his team, especially if it continues to be balanced inside and out.
Patric Young chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds for the Gators (12-3), who won their 14th consecutive home game.
Quincy Taylor led the Blazers (5-8) with 16 points. Ovie Soko added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Florida trailed midway through the first half and couldn't seem to keep the Blazers off the boards. UAB held a 21-13 rebounding advantage at halftime, but Donovan challenged his team at the break.
The Gators were much more aggressive in the second half. The biggest difference, though, was the 3-point line. Florida made 15 of 27 from behind the arc.
"They were giving up 3s tonight," Donovan said. "They were going under (screens). They were trying to protect the paint and that was one of those games you've got to take what the defense gives you. We go 15 for 27 and almost half our shots were from behind the 3-point line, but that's what they were forcing us to do.
"I thought with the way they were trying to play defense, they were almost daring us with the way they were guarding pick and rolls to shoot 3s, and it was a game where we shot pretty well from behind the line," Donovan added.
Florida hit four 3s-three of them by Boynton-in a 3-minute span early in the second to push its lead to 21 points.
About the only excitement the rest of the way was a power surge that knocked out lights on both baselines. Donovan and UAB coach Mike Davis agreed to play through dim conditions in the O'Connell Center.
The Blazers made a small run in the less-than-ideal conditions, cutting the lead to 64-55 with 5:01 to play, but then Boynton and Walker hit back-to-back 3s that made it a 15-point game again.
"I thought we played a great basketball team," Davis said. "We needed to play a team like this before conference play just to reconfirm all the things we talked about and how to be a good team. To me, this is the best game we have played so far."
Maybe so, but giving up 3s turned out to be a mistake.
Boynton made 6 of 10 from beyond the arc; Walker hit 7 of 9.
"They went under our guards on the screens," Young said. "We're making 11 something 3s per game. It's insane going under our guards."
About the only thing amiss for Florida was Bradley Beal. The freshman was 2 of 15 from the field, including 0 for 3 from 3-point range. He missed from everywhere, including a driving layup with a little more than a minute remaining.
Florida also played short-handed for the third time in the last five games. Guard Mike Rosario sat out after spraining an ankle in practice. He also missed two games with a back injury.
"We don't need any one person to score," Walker said. "Everybody collectively has been doing it for this team, so one person having a bad night or off night, someone else can pick up the slack at any time."
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