Florida Overcomes Three-Point Struggles

The Gators knew there would be a game this season where they had to win when the three-point shots weren't falling. It came Saturday against LSU. Florida guards went 2-for-12 from behind the arc and were forced to get their points while penetrating into the paint. Five Gators managed double figures as the Gators came away with a 76-64 win over LSU.

"Thirty-three percent for us from the three-point line is probably one of the lowest percentage games we've had," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought we had pretty decent looks."

The open shots weren't there. They just didn't fall. Kenny Boynton went 0-for-4 from behind the three-point line, ending his streak of 34 games in a row with at least one. Erik Murphy went 3-for-4 from behind the three-point line. He was the only Florida player to hit more than one three.

That's the type of team the Gators have tried to build. If one of the shooters isn't on that night, there are other options that can shoot from behind the three-point line.

"We can do this because we have a lot of options on a nightly basis," Murphy said. "If somebody is off, somebody else is feeling it. Anybody on our team can score."

When it was obvious the Gators weren't going to succeed from long range, the team focused harder on the defensive end. Florida forced eleven turnovers, but ten of those came in the first half when the Gators ran out to a 12-point halftime lead.

"We're really focused on our defense," freshman Brad Beal said. "We weren't shooting the ball well, so we had to press it and force turnovers to score. Once we forced the turnovers we needed, we were able to score easily."

The players haven't heard all season from Donovan in practice about their defensive intensity. When they're struggling from the field, the Gators have the athleticism and strength to grind out a game on defense. They just have to make it a priority.

That happened Saturday night.

Despite LSU forward Justin Hamilton scoring 27 points in the paint, only one other Tigers player scored more than eight points. Once the team bought into Donovan's defensive message this week in practice, they responded with a solid effort.

"He's not one of the best coaches in the country for no reason," Beal said of Donovan. "We've just had to buy into everything he's saying."

It wasn't a surprise for the Gators that they were able to grind the game out without their long-range shots. In fact, they expected it.

"We believe we can win these games when we're not shooting well, maybe you guys didn't," Erving Walker quipped to the post-game media. "We always thought we could."

HAMILTON CREATES PROBLEMS: With Patric Young limited because of an ankle injury and coming off the bench, the Gators knew there were matchup issues with Hamilton. His 27 points and eight rebounds gave the Gators issues, but part of that was by design.

When the Gators had a double-digit lead in the second half, Donovan elected not to double team Hamilton. He thought that would open up three-point shots for the Tigers and give them a better chance to get back in the game.

"When you double team the post like, with their offense the way it's spaced, the ball is going to end up on the perimeter and you're going to give their guys decent looks," Donovan said. "We lived with him having a huge night."

Hamilton's post moves gave the Gators trouble, even when Young was guarding him.

"He's big and strong," Murphy said. "He's got a little old man game to him. He's got some crafty post moves. He knows how to use his body, and he's really smart—that's what I mean by old man game."

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