On the 25th anniversary of the 3-point shot’s introduction into college basketball, the Gators rang in a new season by firing away from long range.

Though the switch to a 3-point arc in the 1986-87 season once turned coach Billy Donovan into a lethal shooter as a player at Providence, he was initially concerned Thursday night in the O’Connell Center about his team’s number of attempts beyond the arc against Catholic.

“I didn’t like the balance there,” Donovan said. “But I can honestly say, I don’t know if we took one bad 3-point shot in the first half. I can’t remember a game, since I’ve been here, the last game that we took 40 3-point shots.”

On the strength of their deep rotation at guard, the No. 8 Gators converted 50 percent of those shots from deep and overwhelmed the Cardinals 114-57.

Florida was led behind the arc by junior guard Kenny Boynton, who tallied a game-high 21 points and 10 assists on 6-of-11 shooting from three. Fellow starter senior Erving Walker also cashed in on half of his attempts from deep and finished the exhibition with 15 points.

“The way that we shared the ball and the open shots that we got, if we have open shots like that, we’ve got to continue to take them,” Walker said.

The Gators fueled a 36-10 run in the final seven minutes of the first half by connecting on eight straight 3-pointers, which pushed their lead to 41 at halftime.

“When you’re making 20 for 40 by yourself standing, that’s pretty good, never mind being in a game,” Donovan said.

The biggest spark for UF’s long-range explosion might have come from two players new to wearing a Gators uniform.

In his freshman debut, Bradley Beal lived up to his five-star billing with 20 points on 72 percent shooting from the field. The 6-foot-3 Beal would have had a chance for more, but he fouled out with 7:10 remaining in the game.

Beal was also the lone starting guard to not have a turnover.

“Coach Donovan tells us every time in practice, ‘Take it. If you’re open, take it,’” Beal said.

“He doesn’t have a problem with us shooting threes or the amount of threes that we took … as long as we realize it’s not always going to be that way.”

Coming off the bench for the first time in his career, redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario continued the 3-point onslaught by matching Beal’s 4-of-7 shooting behind the arc.

“I’m so proud of him because I feel like he’s an amazing freshman,” Rosario said. “He’s been thrown into the fire right now and for him to be so mature about everything and be on top of everything that Coach Billy asks him to do, that shows a lot of character.”

Contact John Boothe at [email protected]

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