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Florida rolls to 84-35 opening win

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's shooting might have been a little cold Friday night when the team opened its season against Georgetown in a canceled game aboard an amphibious assault ship, but it certainly wasn't in the team's new opener against Alabama State in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Sunday.

Starting guard Kenny Boynton scored a team-high 22 points in Florida's 84-35 win over Alabama State on Sunday.

The Gators blazed their way to an 84-35 win over the Hornets, shooting a blistering 60 percent from the floor in the first half while holding Alabama State to just two made field goals.

The defensive performance was just as impressive as the non-stop barrage of baskets on the other end, with the Gators stifling the Hornets on just about every possession and limiting Alabama State to just 12 made buckets in the game.

"We've tried to really make an emphasis on being better defensively," Donovan said. "I think our guys are really committed to working at it and getting better at it. I thought the shots we forced them to take was impressive to me from the bench."

Florida keyed its defensive performance with a strong rebounding effort, minimizing the amount of second chances Alabama State had.

The Hornets scored just eight second-chance points, and the Gators harassed the shooters all afternoon, altering countless shots.

"Coach (Billy Donovan) really emphasized the last couple days in practice that they really get a lot of easy baskets, threes," junior power forward Erik Murphy said. "Obviously we were playing pretty good D and they weren't hitting shots, either. Both of those combined, maybe playing on the road, frustrated them a little bit."

The strong showing on the glass helped Florida work a big advantage in the paint. The Gators scored 36 points in the paint as center Patric Young pounded his way to a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

"I'm not going to say I'm the strongest players in the country, but I'm one of the strongest players in the country," Young said. "If I can get down the court fast and get early position, there's a good opportunity I'm going to open up scoring for myself if not somebody else."

Murphy also chipped in 15 points and three rebounds, while junior forward Will Yeguete added three points and seven rebounds.

Offensively, Boynton picked up right where he left off last season as the team's top scorer. He dropped 22 against Alabama State on a hot night shooting, finishing 8-10 from the floor and 4-4 from three-point range.

With starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin out four games due to a suspension for violating team rules, Boynton also picked up the slack as the team's top ball-handler.

In 22 minutes, Boynton added five assists while pulling down six rebounds.

"I'm just trying to be an overall good player, all around," Boynton said. "I'm trying to rebound and just take care of the ball. I like it."

Starting shooting guard Mike Rosario also finished in double-figures for Florida, adding 14 points.

Despite the lopsided win, Donovan voiced concerns over the team's ball-handling. It was particularly shaky early on, with the team racking up five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Florida finished with 12 turnovers.

"I thought that our turnovers were defensive rebounding, we made some really bizarre outlet passes that gave the ball back to them," Donovan said. "I thought we adjusted in the second half. Having seven in the first half, only five in the second half, that was encouraging."

The Gators will return to action in the O'Dome on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to take on Wisconsin in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

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