Inside the Play: Guarding Florida 3-pointers

Florida will shoot 3-pointers on Tuesday. A lot. I know it, you know it, John Calipari knows it.

“Now, you just know that they’re going to take 30,” Calipari said.

Maybe not 30. Florida averages 26 threes per game and has eclipsed 30 four times, none since Dec. 17. But they’re going to be in that range. They’ve attempted at least 21 threes in every game and made less than 25 percent of them only twice.

Let’s take a look at a play they ran against Vanderbilt, a game in which they made 11 of 24 on the way to a 73-65 win.

Florida’s Ervin Walker handles the ball on the perimeter. To begin the play, the Gators have four players outside the arc. That’s not atypical for the guard-oriented team.

Walker receives two screens on the perimeter, which makes switching through the screens difficult.



Walker loops around his teammates, and you can already see Vanderbilt’s three defenders getting out of position. The Commodore in the middle is starting to switch all the way over on Walker, but so is the closest defender.

“Their 3-point shooting comes as a result of the things they do before that,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “They get you into a scrambling rotation.”

With two Vandy defenders trailing Walker, Florida’s Erik Murphy (top left player) has popped open. He’s a 6-foot-11 forward, but he’s not afraid to step outside. He’s attempted 24 threes on the year and has made 75 percent of them.

“With Murphy now, they spread the floor out,” Calipari said. “A year ago, you could predict the 4 or 5 would be close to the rim and you could guard the post. With Murphy able to shoot the 3 that way, it makes it even harder to guard.”

This is one of those times. Walker comes to an abrupt stop, pivots and fires a pass to Murphy, who is waiting behind the arc. He’s got plenty of space.

“I don’t think you can be totally one-dimensional,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But when we’re open, I want guys shooting it.”

Nobody’s afraid to shoot it on Florida’s team, which has attempted 599 threes on the year in 23 games.

aMurphy rises and buries the three, one of 11 Florida made in beating Vanderbilt.

Calipari said it’s impossible to completely stop the three — Florida will take its shots no matter what — but the key is to heavily contest 3-point attempts.

“Look, you cannot stop a team from shooting threes,” Calipari said. “They’re going to get them. You just want to make sure they’re guarded.”

UK has been able to do just that this year, holding opponents to 31.6 percent 3-point shooting. Only four teams have made more than 40 percent of their 3-pointers in a game.

Florida could do that. If it does, Calipari said, UK just has to move on to the next game.

And shore up its 3-point defense.

“”(If) we come out and we don’t do a good job of guarding the three and they beat us,” Calipari said, “we’re like, ‘OK. Well, there’s an area that we could get beat by in the tournament.'”

And then maybe it wouldn’t happen when that time came around.

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