Things not going Florida’s way from beyond arc

The team that leads the nation in 3-pointers now has concerns

from behind the arc.

Florida’s 3-point shooting percentage is way down in

Southeastern Conference play, dropping from 41.4 to 35.8. Making

matters worse, the eighth-ranked Gators are allowing league

opponents to shoot 41 percent from 3-point range – a trend coach

Billy Donovan would like to see turn around Saturday against


”We’ve got to do a better job defending the 3,” Donovan said.

”I’m not really worried about our shooting percentage. I think if

we shoot between 38 and 43 on a regular basis, that’s pretty good.

What I’d like to see is us get our 3-point field goal percentage

defense down a lot lower than it is. We’ve given up too high of a

percentage in our league right now. That’s one area I’d say we’ve

got to get better at.”

The 3-point line, which Donovan calls college basketball’s

”great equalizer,” is a big reason Florida (19-5, 7-2 SEC) has

won 14 of its last 17 games.

The Gators have more 3-pointers (247) than anyone in the

country. They have made 10 or more 3s in 16 games this season, the

most in any of Donovan’s 16 seasons in Gainesville.

But the majority of those came early.

Florida drained double digit 3s in 12 of its first 15 games, all

against non-conference opponents. And in the three games the Gators

failed to hit 10, they made nine twice.

Things have turned since.

Florida has failed to reach double digits from behind the arc –

or shoot higher than 33 percent – in five of nine league games.

”We should be a lot better, but we can’t control that,” guard

Bradley Beal said. ”We can only control things that we can

control, like defense and rebounding. The ball, we can’t just force

the ball in. If we had control over it, we wouldn’t miss a shot. We

have to keep fighting through and keep pushing.”

Florida has struggled even more defending the 3.

The Gators allowed non-conference opponents to shoot just 31.7

percent from behind the arc. In league play, though, that number

has ballooned to 40.6 percent.

Top-ranked Kentucky really exposed Florida’s perimeter defense

in a lopsided loss Tuesday night. The Wildcats made 9 of 15 shots

from beyond the arc.

Players believe missed shots on the other end – Florida was

9-of-27 shooting from 3-point range – affected them on the other

end. It’s been that way all season, too.

”You just have to keep playing and keep moving on,” Beal said.

”If you miss a shot, you’ve got to move on to the next play, and

we didn’t do that. That’s our biggest issue, our mental approach to

the game, basically, and not being able to move past adversity and

trying to fight through it.”

The drop-off also could stem from improved competition that has

made open shots even tougher to find. Or possibly opponents have a

better idea how to guard the Gators.

Either way, Donovan has no plans to ask his guys to take fewer

3s. He insists the shots will start falling, much like they did

early in the season.

His players hope so, not wanting it to become the team’s

identity down the stretch.

”We’re going to take this as a stepping stone and try to learn

from it,” Beal said.