Walker, Boynton lead No. 13 Florida to 85-67 win

By MARK LONG,

AP Sports Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach

Billy Donovan has fond memories of Veterans Memorial Arena. He’s 7-0

there, including two wins in the 2006 NCAA tournament that turned out

to be the first steps in winning consecutive national titles.

He’d like to book another trip to

Jacksonville in March. If the Gators keep shooting like they did Friday

night, it could happen.

Erving Walker scored 18 points, Kenny Boynton added 15 and No. 13 Florida used 12 3-pointers to beat Jacksonville 85-67.

“They’ve got to shoot the ball with

confidence,” Donovan said. “If those guys have looks, they’ve got to

shoot the ball. It’s good for our team.”

It certainly was Friday.

The Gators (8-0) made eight of their

first 12 shots from behind the arc to start the second half. That’s

more 3-pointers than they hit in six games this season. It also helped

them blow open a close game.

Jacksonville sliced into a 12-point

lead and made it 60-56 on Lehmon Colbert’s baseline jumper. But the

Gators pulled away from long range. Walker, Boynton, Dan Werner and

Chandler Parsons all hit two 3s in the second half.

“It’s definitely nice for a change,”

said Boynton, who entered the game shooting 18 percent on 3s. “We all

knocked down shots when we needed them.”

The Gators won their ninth straight

in the series and improved to 8-0 for just the third time in school

history. Florida started 17-0 in 2005-06, the year of the first

national championship.

Vernon Macklin added 16 points and

was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Werner chipped in 13 points, and

Parsons finished with nine points and nine rebounds.

Ayron Hardy led Jacksonville (0-5) with 16 points and six rebounds, while Travis Cohn added 15 points.

The Dolphins kept it close much of the game thanks mostly to 16 offensive rebounds, eight steals and five blocked shots.

“That’s our makeup,” coach Cliff

Warren said. “We have to fight, scrap, claw to go get rebounds. We knew

we were going to be undermanned size-wise, so that’s how we have to

play.”

It worked for a while.

But the Dolphins faded down the

stretch – maybe showing some wear after a tough season-opening stretch.

Jacksonville played Florida State, California and South Carolina on the

road – the toughest schedule in the nation, according to the latest

Sagarin ratings.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins lost their home opener for the second straight year.

Florida fans outnumbered the home

crowd significantly, no surprise since the campus is just 75 miles away

and there are thousands of Florida fans living in the Jacksonville

area.

The Gators hope to be back here in

March for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. If so,

they can hope the nets are as friendly.

Florida was 12 of 20 from 3-point

range, a better clip (60 percent) than it shot from inside the arc (57

percent). The Gators entered the game with 39 3s in seven games and had

not shot better than 37 percent from 3-point range in any game this

season.

They won several games, including

upsets of Florida State and Michigan State last week, with staunch

defense and a relentless press. This one, though, came courtesy of the

3-point line.

“Our No. 1 priority this year is

going to be defense,” Walker said. “We know you cannot shoot the ball

well every night and we want to stay in games with defense. Of course,

everybody wants to shoot the ball well, and when it’s going in, that

feels nice.”