Positive Signs in Sloppy Game

If there was one thing that you could count on last year it was this: if the Gator basketball team didn't shoot well from long range they would not win. Eleven times last season the Gators made less than 30 percent of its shots from behind the arc, and lost nine of those games.

The only exceptions to the "shoot well or else" edict were a 52-49 win over Georgia Southern and a 77-67 verdict over Georgia. In both of those contests unusual factors helped the Gators to overcome the awful shooting from outside. Against Georgia Southern the Gators shot 30 free throws and made 24 of them, while Georgia Southern scored just five points at the line. In the Georgia game, Florida was a remarkable 21-30 (70%) on two point field goals to offset the problems from beyond 20 feet.

Thursday night against Southern Utah Florida could not have been worse. The Gators clanged shot after shot off the rim, putting in jeopardy a streak of 545 games in which Florida made at least one three-point basket. Fortunately --- at least for the history books --- Dan Werner knocked one down in the final minute to end Florida's dreadful night at 1-for-16. That's the worst 3-point shooting night any Billy Donovan coached Gator team has ever had.

But despite the lousy marksmanship Florida was never seriously in danger against the Thunderbirds from Cedar City, Utah. The reason for that was defense. Florida limited Southern Utah to just 43 percent from the field and 31 percent from three point range. They held a team that scored 85 in its opening game to 50 in the O'Dome.

Now Florida will see much better teams than Southern Utah in the weeks and months ahead, starting with Syracuse on Monday night. A 1-for-16 performance from beyond the arc will not be something the Gators can overcome against quality teams. But the fact they did so with plenty of room to spare in the third game of the season is a good sign that this may not be quite as reliant on good shooting as the Gators were a year ago.

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