Florida entered its matchup with Baylor in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge as one of the worst teams in the country defending the 3-point line.
But due to a number of factors, the Gators guarded the 3-point line better, holding Baylor to 20-percent shooting (3-15) from 3-point range in their 81-60 win over the Bears on Saturday at the O’Connell Center.
The three 3-pointers are the fewest the Gators have allowed in a game this season. On the flip side, Florida has allowed 10 or more 3-pointers in six games, including giving up 11 in a 77-72 loss to South Carolina earlier this week.
“That was really big,” Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson said. “We were really focused on running people off the line, especially their really good shooters, number 20 (senior point guard Manu Lecomte) and 22 (junior guard King McClure). So that was kind of a main focus as well as trying to keep them in front of us.”
Florida began Saturday last in the SEC and 317th in the nation in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37.8 percent from beyond the arc.
“We just did a good job of running them off the line, staying in front, but that’s what we are supposed to do every game,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “We’ve been struggling with that. I think we’re the worst in the conference in 3-point percentage. It’s something we work on every day so it’s kind of crazy we’re that bad at it. We did a good job today. It shows we can do it, we’ve just got to want to do it in the game.”
It helped that Baylor entered the Florida game on a cold stretch, having made just 10 of their last 38 from 3-point range going into Saturday’s matchup at the O’Connell Center. It also helped that Florida was able to get Lecomte, Baylor’s top 3-point shooter at 39.2 percent, into early foul trouble. Lecomte picked up three fouls in the first half and played just 29 minutes, finishing with 10 points on 2-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Backup guard Tyson Jolly made Baylor’s only other 3-pointer.
Florida coach Mike White said the Gators didn’t have as many mental breakdowns guarding the 3-point line, but also said there weren’t as many opportunities to have breakdowns because Baylor’s player roles were more defined. White also praised Chiozza for his toughness and speed in his ability to run through screens and stay with Lecomte.
“As I tell our team, he’s the one guy that defends at a high level every single day and we’re trying to get some others who can guard at level with him,” White said.
Mullen addressed crowd
New Florida football coach Dan Mullen addressed the crowd during halftime of the Florida-Baylor game, asking for support from the fans for UF’s spring game April 14 at The Swamp.
“That standard is not just SEC, but national championships,” said Mullen, who was offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer for UF’s national title teams in 2006 and 2008. “That’s what we promise we’re going to bring back to you here in The Swamp in Gainesville and put the Gators back on top as the most dominating team in the United States of America.”
Mullen then took a picture with ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale and went into the student section to hi-five some of the Rowdy Reptiles in attendance.
Orange and black let’s go
Florida went back to its orange and black uniforms Saturday that it wore during the PK80 Tournament in Portland, Ore.
The uniform switch seemed to spark the Gators, who went 14 of 25 from 3-point range en route to their largest margin of victory since knocking off Stanford 108-87 at the PK 80 Tournament on Thanksgiving night.
Overall, Florida is now 3-1 in the Nike issues orange and black unis with wins over Stanford, Gonzaga and Baylor and a loss to Duke.
Florida improved to 4-1 in SEC-Big 12 Challenge games, with its lone loss coming during the 2014-15 season at Kansas. … Florida also handed Baylor its first loss in the SEC-Big Challenge. The Bears dropped to 4-1 in the event. … Florida had a rare off game from the free throw line, shooting 59.1 percent (13-22). Senior guard Egor Koulechov, who entered the game the SEC’s leading free throw shooter at 94.6 percent, went 3 for 5 from the free throw line, missing two free throws in a game for the first time this season. … Koulechov has reached double figures in scoring in nine of his last 10 games. … With two steals against Baylor, Chiozza passed Andrew Moten to move into eighth place on UF’s all-time steals list with 166. … With 10 points against Baylor, junior guard KeVaughn Allen is at 1,162 points, passing Al Bonner (1974-78) for 40th in UF’s all-time scoring list. … Senior center John Egbunu, rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered last Feb. 14 against Auburn, went through pregame drills for the second straight game. The 6-foot-11 Egbunu’s status remains day-to-day. Florida next plays Tuesday night at Georgia. … SEC commissioner Greg Sankey attended the Florida-Baylor game and presented the Florida women’s volleyball team with their SEC championship trophy during a break in the first quarter. Florida also honored the women’s volleyball team by unfurling their 2017 Final Four banner during the game. The Gators reached the NCAA Finals, falling to Nebraska.