Free throws are foul subject


Published: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

The free throw is considered one of the easiest shots in basketball. Don't tell second-ranked Florida that.

The Gators (15-2, 2-0 SEC) have been clanging free throws off the rim at an alarming rate in recent games. Florida's free-throw line failures are a legitimate concern heading into today's 1 p.m. game at South Carolina (10-4, 0-1).

"We can't miss free throws," forward Corey Brewer said. "It's all about being focused when you get to the line. We've just got to work on it. We know we have to shoot free throws to win."

Florida has survived its past three games in spite of some horrendous foul shooting. The Gators are shooting just 53 percent from the foul line over their past three games, barely better than the team's field goal percentage (52 percent) in that span.

As a result, the Gators' team free-throw percentage has dipped from 70 percent to 66 percent. The recent string of misses is uncharacteristic.

Last year, the Gators shot 74 percent on the year including a 77-percent mark in SEC games. The Gators were able to hold off Alabama-Birmingham, 75-70, on Dec. 30 by hitting 22-of-26 from the foul line.

It hasn't been pretty since then.

"We were a pretty good free throw shooting team up until the last few games," forward Al Horford said.

It started Jan. 2 against Liberty when Florida shot 15-of-30 from the line. The shaky shooting spilled over into SEC play in games against Georgia (9-of-18) and Arkansas (17-of-29).

Horford, who is 2-of-6 from the line since Jan. 2, said the team's inability to hit from the foul line is mental.

"As silly as this may sound, I think everyone is taking it for granted getting to the line," Horford said. "It's about repetition in practice. When you get to the line, you've got to take your time and make it."

One would assume the shooting drought would have prompted coach Billy Donovan to have the team attempt extra free throws in practice. This hasn't been the case.

Donovan said his players typically shoot between 50 and 100 free throws each day. This number hasn't changed. Instead, Donovan relies on his own philosophy in practicing free throws.

Donovan prefers to simulate game situations, where missing a free throw has serious repercussions. To do this, Donovan makes players run if they do not make a certain number of free throws.

"I think sometimes just to go in and practice free throw shooting when nothing is on the line is different than getting up there with a four- or five-point game and there's three minutes left and you have to make those free throws," Donovan said. "So much of free-throw shooting is based on creating that game situation. I think in practice if you can create an environment where they know there's something they have to do if they miss it, that helps."

Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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