Florida feels better prepared for Jimmer

Updated: March 22, 2011, 5:26 PM ET
Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Kenny Boynton guarded BYU's Jimmer Fredette nearly every minute of their game in last year's NCAA tournament.

He won't have to this time around.

It has nothing to do with Boynton's sprained left ankle, either.

The Gators (28-7), the No. 2 seed in the Southeast region, feel like they're better prepared to handle the nation's leading scorer when they play the third-seeded Cougars (32-4) in the regional semifinals in New Orleans on Thursday night.

[+] EnlargeKenny Boynton
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesFlorida coach Billy Donovan said Kenny Boynton will have help defensively against BYU's Jimmer Fredette Thursday.

Fredette scored 37 points against Florida in the opening round last year, leading the Cougars to a 99-92 win in double overtime. He scored 10 points in the decisive extra frame, taking advantage of Boynton's fatigue by hitting two 3-pointers and getting to the free-throw line six times.

Coach Billy Donovan's team is hoping for better results in the rematch.

"When you play against a guy like that, you understand how good he is and you try to take away what he's really good at," said versatile forward Chandler Parsons, the Southeastern Conference's player of the year. "Watching him, he's done it against everybody, so it's not like we're going to say, 'All right, face-guard him and he's not going to score.' He's going to get his. He's going to score points."

How many probably will be key.

The Gators had a decisive size advantage last March, pulling down 12 more rebounds and scoring 16 more points in the paint. That should be the case again, especially since the Cougars are playing without suspended forward and leading rebounder Brandon Davies.

BYU offset its post issues with nine fewer turnovers, 11 more free throws and Fredette. Fredette made 13 of 26 shots and added three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Boynton, then a freshman, had the tough task of guarding BYU's star.

He'll get much more help Thursday.

Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather, two freshmen who have shown a knack for defense, will rotate in on Fredette. That should take some pressure off Boynton, the team's second-leading scorer and best defender, and keep him fresh on both ends of the court.

"I really felt like last year, because of our lack of depth, I thought [Boynton] got worn out as he started to get into that into the first overtime, then second overtime," Donovan said. "I just don't think it can be one guy. Now there's going to be some possessions and some plays in the game where whoever's on him, they're going to be on an island by themselves. That's gonna happen."

That's where Fredette shines, too.

The 6-foot-2 guard has ridiculous range, doesn't need screens to get open looks and has the ability to drive into the lane and find teammates for easy shots or draw fouls. That's why Fredette averaged 28.8 points during the regular season and has been at his best last this season.

He averaged 31.4 during Mountain West Conference play, 35.3 points during the league tournament and has 66 points through two NCAA tournament games.

"In every game that he's played, everybody's trying to stop him, everybody's trying to slow him down and he still gets 33 a game, he still averages 28 a game, he still does it regardless," Donovan said. "I'm not comparing him to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but I did make the comment a year ago that I thought Fredette had more of an impact in a college game than John Wall did. ... When you're dealing with a guy like that, there's a lot of times that you are at his mercy because he's got the ball in his hands.

"When you throw the ball to a great player in space, it's not like you're going to prevent the guy from getting a shot off. It's going to go up."

Boynton typically draws the team's toughest defensive assignment, at least on the perimeter. Whether it's Ohio State's David Lighty, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen, Tennessee's Scotty Hopson, Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, Kentucky's Brandon Knight, UC Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson or UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt, Boynton has held his own.

Fredette could be Boynton's toughest matchup, especially if his ankle gives him problems. Boynton sprained it Saturday against UCLA and missed practice Monday. He returned Tuesday, and the Gators need him to be back at full speed for the rematch.

Advancing might depend on it.

"What makes [Boynton] good is he has great, great feet and he has great lateral movement, and he can play close enough to people and keep people out of the lane," Donovan said. "He can really, really spread himself out and athletically he can really move his feet. ... He's got great ability."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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