Gators' 3-point defense lackluster in SEC play

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan claps against the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 in Gainesville. Florida defeated UAB 79-61.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:40 p.m.

Throughout his 16-year tenure as coach at Florida, Billy Donovan has preached the importance of the 3-point line.

Not just shooting 3s, but defending 3s as well.

Yet in Southeastern Conference play, Florida has surprisingly struggled to win the 3-point line. The Gators are shooting 35.8 percent from the 3-point line in nine league games, while allowing opponents to shoot 40.6 percent from the same distance.

“We've got to do a better job defending the 3,” Donovan said. “I don't think we've done a good enough job.”

That was apparent in UF's 78-58 loss Tuesday night against No. 1 Kentucky. The Gators were so focused on stopping Kentucky's inside presence that they allowed perimeter shooters to roam free for uncontested long-range shots. The Wildcats made Florida pay by shooting 60 percent (9 of 15) from 3-point range.

Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal said the Gators need to do a better job closing out on shooters and studying the scouting report. Kentucky sophomore guard Doron Lamb came into Tuesday night's game against UF shooting a team-high 47.8 percent from 3-point range. Yet Lamb was inexplicably left wide open twice from beyond the arc in transition in the final two minutes of the first half. Lamb made both uncontested 3s to put Kentucky ahead 38-26 at halftime.

“We can't help off guys like Doron Lamb and just leave him open for wide-open 3s,” Beal said.

Donovan said he's not as concerned about UF's perimeter shooting. Overall, the Gators still lead the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage (39.5 percent) and 3-pointers made (10.3). But the Gators have had a harder time getting clean looks at the basket against longer, more athletic SEC defenses.

“I'm not really worried about our shooting percentage,” Donovan said. “I think if we shoot somewhere between 38 and 43 (percent) on a regular basis for the year, that's pretty good.”

Asked about Florida's 3-point shooting percentage being lower in SEC play, Beal responded: “We should be a lot better, but we can't control that. We can only control things that we can control like defense and rebounding. We can't just force the ball in. If we had control over it, we wouldn't miss a shot. We just have to keep fighting through and keep pushing.”

Against Kentucky, the Gators shot a season-low 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from 3-point range. The Gators made just 3 of 19 uncontested 3-point shot attempts.

“You are going to have some games where you don't shoot the ball well, and we did not shoot the ball well,” Donovan said. “Some of it had to do with Kentucky's defense and some of it had to do with we didn't make shots. And we did have some good looks on shots that we needed to maybe make a few of them.”

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