Javier Duren didn't look like a player whose team had just lost by 21 points. He had a smile on his face when he talked about Yale's effort in a 79-58 loss to No. 13 Florida on Sunday night.
The John J. Lee Amphitheater was packed. Even the four balconies behind the basket — one of which is for standees only — were full, the sign there's a special game going on.
"There aren't too many schools like us who get to bring Florida into our house," Duren said. "It was a great experience. There were a lot of positives. We didn't back down. We had a couple of mistakes in this game that we can fix before the Ivy season starts."
The Bulldogs were in the game until the final minutes of the first half when the Gators started a 26-3 run that spanned the halves. The Yale fans were making noise and so were all those visitors wearing Florida gear.
"It was a really great experience. It was a great atmosphere," said Duren who finished with 14 points. "There were a lot of moments in the first half where we were getting steals and scoring. It was amazing to see the crowd."
Yale coach James Jones played the what-if game between Florida's program which has two national championships and Yale, which was last in the NCAA tournament in 1962.
Jones was thinking what-ifs.
"Take out those 4 minutes, which you can't, and we're right there with them," he said referring to the opening minutes of the second half when the Gators pulled away.
Senior guard Kenny Boynton matched his career high with 28 points on 8-for-10 shooting from 3-point range for Florida.
Boynton, a 34 percent 3-point shooter for his career, had been struggling mightily recently. He was 7 for 39 from beyond the arc over his last six games. He was 1 for 2 at halftime from behind the 3-point line against Yale. That all changed in the second half.
Boynton made 7 of 9 3-point attempts in the second half.
"It was more of a mindset than just shooting good to get out of the slump," Boynton said.
Will Yeguette had 14 points and nine rebounds and Mike Rosario added 13 points for the Gators (10-2), whose losses were to No. 3 Arizona and No. 25 Kansas State. The Gators shot 60 percent from the field for the game (30 for 50), including 9 of 17 from 3-point range.
"Boynton's' 3s allowed them to continue their lead," Jones said. "We did a poor job of locating him too many times."
Justin Sears had 15 points and Armani Cotton had 12 for the Bulldogs (5-11), who have lost four of five.
Yale was hanging around for most of the first half, getting to 21-20 with 5:27 to play in the opening 20 minutes. Then came the run and it was a matter of Florida deciding how large a margin of victory it would be.
Florida's 14-3 run to close the half made it 35-23, its largest lead until then. Yale missed six of seven shots in the run and had two turnovers.
That wasn't the worst of it. The Gators scored the first 12 points of the second half, the run closing on a 3-pointer by Boynton that made it 47-23 with 18:17 to play. The Bulldogs, who had turnovers on four consecutive possessions in the run — all in the backcourt, called three timeouts within the first 5 minutes.
"We Left some points out there in the first half," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "The difference in the game was the run before the half we closed it out then the first 4 minutes of the second half we turned them over and got some easy baskets."
Florida, which played its starters until the final 2 minutes, kept its lead around 20 points for most of the second half.
"I was hoping our guys would get smarter by being here," Donovan, who played at Providence, joked when asked about playing in a gym like this. "I think there's something in the Northeast, buildings like Madison Square Garden, the Palestra, places like this. There's so much history. It's so unique. It's an unbelievable academic and athletic tradition. It's a great experience for our guys. We play mostly in large arenas and domes so this was special."
After the opening flurry of turnovers by both teams — Yale's didn't include a missed alley-oop pass way above the rim like Florida's did — the Gators had the 21-20 lead with 5:27 to play in the first half. That didn't sit well with the Florida fans in attendance, the ones with some orange mixed in with the blue.
The Gator fans even got into a "chomp" with about 8 minutes to play.
The Yale fans, on the other hand were loving it early but there were several occasions where they moaned when the Bulldogs wouldn't take advantage of numbers on the break. They also wanted more 3-point attempts but those are hard to come by with Florida's size advantage on the wings.
Yale was 2 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half while the Gators were 2 of 6. But Florida shot 54.2 percent overall (13 of 24) while the Bulldogs hit 36 percent (9 of 25).
Florida's Erik Murphy didn't play because of bruised ribs. The 6-foot-10 senior missed a chance to play near his native South Kingstown, R.I., about a 2-hour drive from New Haven. Yeguette started in Murphy's place.
The Gators are 7-2 all-time against Ivy League schools but this was their first time as a visitor. This series was a 2-for-1 so since Florida won 90-70 last season at Gainesville, the Bulldogs have one more trip to the O'Connell Center, which holds 12,633. Payne-Whitney Gym on Yale's campus holds 2,532.
Florida was Yale's home opponent between two Division III schools — Albertus Magnus, a 112-63 victory, and Oberlin on Saturday.