Gators preparing for three-point challenge

No. 16 Florida is preparing for a change of pace on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. The Gators are coming off games against more traditional offenses in Kansas and Memphis, but they'll face a Fresno State team that depends on the three-point shot this weekend. The three-point line has been a challenge for the Florida defense this year and a focus in practice this week.

Fresno State has taken 95 more three-pointers than Florida during the season. Among Southeastern Conference teams, the Gators are 10th in three-point defense, allowing opponents to make 34.9 percent of their three-pointers.

"This team is going to take more three-point shots than anybody we've faced this year," Billy Donovan said. "They'll shoot it at certain times with five people on the floor. They're really good off the dribble with talented offensive players. The three-point line becomes very important. Long rebounds become very important."

Long rebounds and coming up with loose balls are areas Donovan has pointed out as ones that need to improve. The film showed the Florida staff that the Gators are coming away with just 53 percent of 50-50 balls, a number that needs to improve. Against a team that shoots a high number of three-pointers, long rebounds and loose balls will be at a premium. Donovan just wants to see better effort from his players to get to the ball.

"When you look at us defensively, I've said this all year that we're not where we need to be or want to be," Donovan said. "One of our challenges has been the three-point line. We've got to do a better job there and this will be a test for us to get better because they are going to test us from the 3-point line nearly every possession."

Fresno State comes into Saturday with a 6-5 record with losses to programs like Drake and Pacific. Donovan has taken his team's attention away from that by showing them the areas they can improve on their own.

There's also a history in this game. Florida is 2-2 in the final game before Christmas over the last four years. It isn't always against the best competition, but the Gators don't always come into this game with the most focused mindset.

Even with a less than impressive resume for Fresno State, Donovan has used its conference to prepare his team. The Mountain West was the No. 1 RPI conference in the country last season.

"They play against high-level teams in a high-level league," Donovan said. "They are very talented. They are gifted. From our perspective, people want to put like you've got a four-game stretch (against Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis). I've never looked at it like that. We've got a one-game stretch. We have one game coming and it happens to be against very good teams. In reality, it's another really, really good opponent here on Saturday."

The other benefit is playing the game in south Florida as a part of the Orange Bowl Classic. It allows the Gators to play in front of fans in the southern part of the state after playing in Jacksonville earlier this season and Tampa last season. It helps recruiting to be more visible in those communities, but the most important part is the visibility for the fan base.

"From a recruiting standpoint, from a fan standpoint, being able to go to South Florida and play, I think is always important," Donovan said. "We've tried to spread ourselves out through the state. I think going down there is a good thing, it's good for our program all the way around."

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