The Gators lead the nation in 3-point goals per game at 10.5 and Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday the Gators may take 30 or 35 3-pointers in a showdown between the Southeastern Conference's top two teams.
"They may take 35. What if they make 25? We play good all year and all of the sudden they're banking shots and they will shoot them deep without any reservation coming off the break," said Calipari. "But they also have their inside people that are playing well and the other thing that's spread out the court now is, (Eric) Murphy is playing well. They put him in pick and rolls and they get him in 3's. They're good. They're a very good team."
The Gators, who have won seven straight games, have five players — Kenny Boynton (77), Ervin Walker (48), Bradley Beal (40), Erik Murphy (35) and Mike Rosario (30) — with 30 or more 3-point goals this season. The Gators are shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range while UK?(23-1, 9-0 SEC) is holding opponents to 31.6 percent shooting from 3-point range.
In Saturday's 73-65 win over Vanderbilt, Florida was 11-for-24 from 3-point range as well as 16-for-17 at the foul line, including 14-for-14 in the second half. Florida (19-4, 7-1 SEC) leads the SEC in scoring at 80.1 points per game thanks to its guard play. Walker leads the SEC with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio and averages 12.6 points per game. Boynton is third in the league in scoring at 17.6 points per game.
"Their 3-point shooting comes as a result of things they do before that. They take very few 3-point shots where they are really moving," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said Monday. "A lot come from a stationary standpoint and that's the kind you want to take. Because of their penetration and success coming off ball screens, they get you in a scramble mode rotation-wise. They are good passers and share it well. What they do to you prior to the shot being taken is what makes them so effective getting good looks."
Florida coach Billy Donovan says his team does not rely solely on 3-point goals. "I look more at our field goal percentage from the field than the 3. Because we do at times have four guys out there that can shoot the 3, we can stretch defenses," Donovan said. "In this league, you cannot totally be one dimensional. When we are open, I want our guys shooting 3's. I?do not feel like we have to take 35 3's (to win), but if the opportunity is there to do it, I want to do it."
Calipari wants his team to be aware that 3-point misses often result in long rebounds.
"If they're not making them, where does that ball go? Where does it miss to? It's going to the elbows. It's going to be out that way. So it's over our big peoples' heads and one of our issues has been our guard-rebounding, whether it's Marquis Teague or Doron Lamb, we haven't rebounded the ball well from that position," Calipari said. "Their best rebounder, other than a big, is probably Brad Beal and he's playing like a two or three (position). He goes after every ball."
Beal, a freshman who was recruited heavily by Kentucky, averages 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Gators. He has scored in double figures 18 times this season and topped 20 points three times.
"I think he has played very well," Donovan said. "Being a freshman always is a challenge and there will be ups and downs no matter how talented you are. One thing great about him is that he is eager to get better. He is a very accountable kid when things are not going his way. The more experience he gets, the better he gets. He's a good team chemistry guy. He adds a lot of intangible things you do not notice by just watching him play. I think he has played very, very well."
"We went to a lot of camps and played on Team USA together. I?know he can really shoot the ball," UK?freshman Anthony Davis said of Beal.
Florida sophomore center Patric Young has been bothered by a nagging ankle injury that has kept him from starting five games, but he's averaging 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He also has 22 blocked shots.
"He is a great kid and good team guy.?He played well coming off the bench and our team played well," Donovan said. "But he adds a different element when he's in the game with his size, strength, athleticism and way he rebounds. He also has a really good motor. He went through a period where he was not moving like he needed to, but he's getting better."
This starts a stretch where the Gators will play five of seven games on the road. Kentucky has not lost at home in Calipari's three seasons and also has won four of its nine SEC games by 23 points or more. The Wildcats have an average victory margin of 17.6 points in conference play. However, conference coaches respect the Gators.
"Look at Florida and just pick your poison. You can't just defend one area against them because they are too complete of an offensive team. They bring guys off the bench who can score, too," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "They are just a really good team."