Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bonner Back on Track for Gators

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bonner Back on Track for Gators

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

GAINESVILLE -- Matt Bonner figured it out.

Not that Florida coach Billy Donovan doubted he would. Bonner is, after all, the 2002 Verizon Academic All-American of the Year. But what Bonner had to learn isn't printed in any textbook, it's something he had to figure out himself.

Bonner had to learn how to play when he is the focal point of the opponent's defense, when he's the guy they're planning to shut down. That's what Donovan said he had to do after Bonner scored just four points in the Gators' season-opening rout of Louisiana Tech.

Five games later, it's clear Bonner did what he was told.

After averaging just 7.7 points in UF's first three games, and making only one field goal in two of them, Bonner has been the Gators' best offensive player the last three games. He's averaging 19.6 points over that span, including 22 points in UF's 83-73 upset of No. 2 Kansas in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT in New York.

"He's played much better than he had the first couple games," Donovan said as the Gators (4-2) prepared for today's game at Florida State (3-0). "He's stepped up."

There's really no way Bonner could have stepped down after the opener. The four points were the fewest he'd scored since he had four against Auburn on Jan. 17, 2001, and he didn't get his first basket until the second half. He was one for three from the field.

Bonner did have 15 points against Eastern Illinois on six-of-11 shooting, but a mild back injury limited him to 18 minutes and four points on one-of-four shooting against Coastal Carolina.

But since then, Bonner hasn't scored fewer than 18 points.

"My teammates have been doing a good job of finding me in scoring areas," Bonner said. "And I just try to be more aggressive. That's it."

Bonner's aggressiveness, plus the play of forwards Matt Walsh (18. …

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