Gators trying to fix perimeter defense problems

South Carolina guard Frank Booker looks to pass while Florida guard Jalen Hudson defends during the second half Wednesday in the O'Connell Center. [Ron Irby/Associated Press]

The 3-point line is one of the great equalizers in college basketball.

For as well as No. 20 Florida has shot the ball from 3-point range this season, the Gators have been equally porous defending it.

Perimeter defensive breakdowns hurt the Gators again in their 77-72 loss Wednesday to South Carolina at the O’Connell Center. Florida allowed the Gamecocks to shoot 52.4 percent (11-21) from 3-point range.

For the season, Florida ranks last in the SEC and 317th in the nation (out of 351 teams) in 3-point field goal percentage defense. While Florida is shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range this season, the Gators are allowing opponents to shoot 37.8 percent from beyond the arc. Florida is making 9.5 3-pointers per game, while allowing 7.1 3-pointers per contest.

On Wednesday night, Florida failed to recognize the hot hand, South Carolina graduate transfer point guard Wesley Myers, who made his first five 3-point attempts and finished 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The 6-foot-1 Myers made three, 3-pointers in the first half on open looks and carried over the hot shooting into the second half on his way to a season-high 22 points.

In reviewing the South Carolina film Thursday, Florida coach Mike White said the breakdowns in 3-point defense were numerous.

“Getting out of a stance,” White said.”Not fighting through screens with urgency. Dying on screens. Losing sight of ball and man, and at the same time — ball-watching — and before you know it you have a screen at your body. Over-helping on guys we shouldn’t be over-helping on.”

The biggest 3-pointer of the game came with Florida up 48-39 and 16:11 remaining, when Myers stepped back and hit a 24-footer at the end of the shot clock to cut UF’s lead to 48-42. That gave South Carolina life and allowed the Gamecocks to rally for the win.

“We have to know the clock,” White said. “Three seconds on the shot clock. We see it. At that point, we’ve got to make guys drivers, as opposed to accepting the late-clock 3s.”

Personnel has played into UF’s woes defending the 3-point line as well. Last season, with longer, more athletic players like Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill guarding the perimeter, the Gators ranked second in the SEC in 3-point percentage defense at 30.5 percent. Florida also has been forced to double-team more in the post this season due to size mismatches with 6-foot-9, 225-pound Kevarrius Hayes playing center and 6-8, 240-pound Keith Stone playing power forward.

“Our margin for error is smaller — and I’ve said this since September — because we’re not as talented defensively as last year’s group,” White said.

FREE THROWS: Senior center John Egbunu took part in pregame warmups before Florida’s game against South Carolina.  “He was excited,” White said. “He had a little sweat. It was fun in the locker room there for 10 seconds.” The 6-foot-11 Egbunu, though, is still dealing with swelling in his surgically repaired knee following non-contact workouts and won’t be cleared for contact until he can make it through a workout without swelling. … White, on electing to foul with Florida down 73-70 and 43.6 seconds left rather than playing out the defensive possession. “We fouled the wrong guy,” White said. Florida freshman guard Mike Okauru fouled South Carolina guard Frank Booker with 39 seconds left. Booker, a 71.7 percent 3-point shooter, made both free throws. White wanted the Gators to foul Hassani Gravett, a 66-percent free throw shooter, or Myers, a 62.7 percent free throw shooter. “Just a mishap, you know,” White said. “You’re gonna make some. South Carolina made some too, but to be a really good team you can’t make that many.”

Up next

Who: Baylor (12-8) vs. No. 20 Florida (14-6)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: O’Connell Center


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. Coach Steve Orr Spurrier, We all love and admire him and thank him for what he did at Florida our alma mater
    but at the same time he has to recognize what Florida has meant to him and what it did for him.
    Gator nation even named our Florida field in his name.
    I was disappointed and surprised to see him wearing a neutral shirt at the S.Carolina /Florida Basketball game.

  2. The “softness” of Hayes, Hudson, Allen and Stone cannot be fixed — that is glaringly apparent. That will be a drag on next year’s team also. However, at least Hudson and Allen can throw in points with some regularity. Among Bassett, Ballard and Hayes, I would think at least one (maybe two) will be transferring. With so many disappointing games from Hayes and Stone, White hasn’t given enough minutes to Ballard or Bassett. If Gator fans still think Ms. White is an elite coach after this Saturday’s game, they choose to be blind. Baylor will come in here (about a 7-pt. dog) and give Florida its fourth home court disaster of the season!

    • what have you seen from Allen this year that makes you say he can throw it in regularly, he’s been the biggest disappointment of the year, throws up more bricks and drives recklessly down the lane more than Kasey Hill did, Ballard and Bassett are getting plenty of playing time, and couldn’t be doing any better if they transferred some place else, they’ll both develop into reasonably good players for Florida in time; this team can look as good as any top 10 team in the country at times, then lay an egg like Weds. against SC, I see an early exit in March, probably an 8-9 seed, no consistency to make me think they can string 6 games together and compete for a national championship

      • Hell Naw!!!!!! I beg to differ….nobody in the history of EVER …did more reckless driving the lane with no clue or prayer of what kind of b.s. he was gonna throw up in the air (usually hitting the bottom of the rim)!!!! Please save Kasey Hill comparisons for ur worst enemies or a Lavar Ball offspring. Please and Thank You!!!

        • Hill made my blood pressure rise and I was never more happy to see a player exit Gainesville. I even feel a little bit of anger even typing about him. That “hitting the bottom of the rim” was funny. I think the high school five-star and future pro is working in the sanitation department in some county in the panhandle.

          • Bf. You are a Nole. What exactly is it with Hill leaving that made you so emotional. Dude, I’m a Physician. Your various pseudo names posting gibberish on several Gator sports sites is concerning. Skip the Psychologist. Head straight to the Psychiatrist.

  3. As I hinted after the S. Carolina game that he might, Emmitt Williams did cancel his visit this weekend. He saw the effort against S. Carolina and was thinking “Wtf?” Probably didn’t want to play for White and committed to LSU. Wade and Drew, both notches above White, have terrific classes coming in next year. Comparatively, Mikey was left with the crumbs.

  4. Okay, White lackeys, talk to us tomorrow when Baylor (solid underdog) comes in and hands Ms. White his fourth loss at home. Four losses at home through 2/3 of the season!! You can use your “bad matchup,” “had an off day,” the bigs didn’t come to play” or “early fouls” excuses or even come up with some new ones. More Ballard and Bassett tomorrow and a lot less Hayes and Stone.
    Over/Under tomorrow on number of stupid/bad/forced shots by Egor: 4.5

    • I’m not hearing any excuses from Gator fans Mikey. Gator basketball is what it is. A flawed team with potential to be a top 25 team. Again, your postings are troubling to me, professionally speaking as a Physician. Again, skip the Psychologist or Therapist and head straight to a Psychiatrist. Let me know what area you live and I can suggest a good one.

  5. Trying to figure out what is wrong with your parameter defense should not be an issue at this stage of the season. It’s comes down to how they are being coached. When you have a former shooting guard who is now the Gator coach sums it up – shooting the 3 is more important than defending the 3. Gators need to get a better coach.

  6. We do have a problem, but I don’t think it has nothing to do with HBC White. We have a flawed team, and it all boils down to no presence in the paint. Hayes the most experienced of our bigs, can’t defend, most of the time he is just pushed out of the way. The others, I guess for lack of experience are not much help either. what happens?, you drop more people to help defend the paint leaving the perimeter unattended. so what’s happening? we defend the 3 and we get burned in the paint, defend the paint and ditto. if my memory doesn’t fail me, I think last year we where #2 or #3 on defending the perimeter with Egbunu taking care of the paint. Hopefully when he gets back it will give us more presence in the center allowing us to be stronger in the perimeter. At least I hope so.

  7. No team is perfect. This Gator team puts in a lot of time and effort at striving for perfection with the parts and pieces that are available. We’ve seen glimpses of it this season.

    We’ve done remarkably well in compensating for the lack of post presence. It’s a trade off for perimeter defense with the double-team of the opposition’s dominant post player.

    Still, it’s surprising that our perimeter defense is statistically that bad considering our record.