It didn’t seem as if Mike White was asking for much.
Not after his team missed 21 of its 25 three-point heaves, not after only one of his players made four baskets on the night, and not after a 73-71 loss at home to Florida State that, despite all of its shooting struggles, Florida could have won.
"If you get two or three more of those to go," White said after UF’s loss to FSU on Dec. 31, "you’re in business."
Florida (9-4, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) responded with a much-improved showing on Saturday, winning its SEC opener against Georgia while shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range and 42.3 percent from the field. The Gators will look to sustain that performance when they face Tennessee (7-6, 0-1 SEC) tonight at 7 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
But, more often than not this season, Florida’s offense has resembled that of its performance against FSU.
UF is shooting 28.4 percent from behind the arc and 42.2 percent from the field, both last in the SEC.
Except for a few scattered games, UF has shot poorly from long range all season, even while players like Brandone Francis-Ramirez and an improved Devin Robinson — whose confidence in his shot before the season was backed by teammates and coaches — touted it as their strength in October.
Robinson is shooting 28.9 percent from three and Francis-Ramirez is shooting 12.1 percent
"With us, it’s not a lack of getting in the gym," White said. "Our guys have been in the gym."
And none more so than freshman KeVaughn Allen.
Allen, the former No. 1 recruit out of Arkansas, remained committed to Florida after the departure of former coach Billy Donovan on one condition: unrestricted gym access.
One day last July, White received a phone call. It was a disappointed Allen, wondering why he was locked out of Florida’s practice gym. His key card wasn’t working.
"The key doesn’t work at 4:30 a.m.," White said through a smile.
So far, Allen has been one of the few players to see his work pay off in the O’Connell Center.
He finished with 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting against FSU and 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting against Georgia. And his offense wasn’t limited to jumpers. It included driving layups, transition dunks and weaving dribble-moves into the paint.
"I knew he could do it all along," sophomore guard Chris Chiozza said. "I told him you can score whenever you want. We need you to do that. Play to your full potential."
His play helped create open shots for the rest of his team. Even though Florida missed 21 three-point shots against FSU, a fair amount of them were uncontested.
And if their three-point shots aren’t falling, the Gators may have to adjust their style of play, like White has suggested at times this season.
"We continue to talk about if we’re gonna thrive and play with energy off of made jump shots, and we’re going into a game banking on doing that," White said, "then it’s insanity."
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