After the Gators attempted 54 three-point shots in their first two games of the regular season, it became clear they had a green light to shoot the ball whenever they pleased.
And early on — having made 48.1 percent of those tries — it looked like it was working.
Nearly nine minutes into the first half, the Gators swung the ball around the perimeter and into the hands of Egor Koulechov.
That’s not a bad thing. Who doesn’t love to see a team consistently drain shots from deep range?
It’s exciting for the fans, and hitting a key three-pointer could give a team some momentum.
However, shooting too many threes becomes an issue when the shots don’t fall. In their 70-63 win over New Hampshire on Sunday, the Gators experienced this firsthand, especially in the first half.
Florida shot 12.5 percent behind the arc in its first 20 minutes against the Wildcats, nailing just one three-pointer from Egor Koulechov. For a team that shoots a lot of perimeter jumpers, that’s not a good sign. In the second half, the Gators didn’t shoot much better. They made two three-pointers on 10 attempts, with Chris Chiozza making one and Jalen Hudson notching the other.
“We had good shots,” Koulechov said. “Today, they didn’t fall.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world when a player throws up an open three-point shot and misses. It becomes a problem, however, when players are constantly shooting from deep when its a contested or hurried shot.
Case in point, Florida had momentum after a huge dunk from Hudson in the second half, and the Gators were on a fastbreak following a steal from Kevarrius Hayes. Hayes dished the ball to Koulechov who was standing behind the arc. But rather than pushing the attack, Koulechov took a dribble and missed the ensuing three-pointer.
Those moments allowed Florida to realize it won’t put up 100-plus points every game and blowout all of its opponents, especially when it isn’t connecting on its shots.
“It was important for us to have this game,” Hudson said. “Definitely for them to smack us around a little bit, for us to come back down to Earth.”
While its play from mid-range and inside the paint was enough to solidify the win over the Wildcats in the end, that may not be the case when Florida starts playing tougher opponents, like the rest of the teams it will face in the Phil Knight Invitational.
UF coach Mike White stressed this after the game when asked about the need to find another way to score if the deep shots aren’t going in. He said the win against New Hampshire proved the Gators can win a game while only going 3-of-18 on three-pointers, but if the game was against an SEC team, Florida’s defense would’ve been worrisome.
“It’s not going to be a constant,” White said. “We talked about that as much as anything else with this team, with our ability to really fill it up on certain nights. If that’s what happens, so be it.”
Jake Dreilinger is the Alligator’s online sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com.