- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's 78-58 loss Tuesday night at top-ranked Kentucky provided the most glaring example of one of the Gators’ biggest weaknesses this season.
UF has struggled to defend the 3-point line in Southeastern Conference play, and the Wildcats exposed that by going 9-for-15 from long range. Kentucky is the fourth team to shoot 43 percent or better from 3-point range in UF's nine SEC games. That happened just twice in the Gators' 15 nonconference games.
"We've got to do a better job defending the 3," UF coach Billy Donovan said Thursday. "What I'd like to see is us get our 3-point field goal percentage defense down a lot lower than it is. We’ve given up too high of a percentage in our league right now."
Florida is allowing SEC opponents to shoot 40.6 percent from 3-point range. That’s 10th in the league, ahead of only South Carolina (41.1 percent) and Mississippi State (42.0 percent). UF (19-4, 7-2 SEC) has played eight teams in SEC play (South Carolina twice) and all but Vanderbilt shot better from 3-point range against UF than their averages in SEC play.
In nonconference play, the Gators held opponents to 31.7 percent from 3-point range.
While UF's 3-point defense has worsened in SEC play, so has the Gators' success from 3-point range. They shot 41.4 percent from long range during nonconference play, but that number has dipped to 35.8 percent in SEC play. The problem has been inconsistency. UF has shot 45.8 percent or better in three games and has been at 37 percent or below in the other six games.
"We should be a lot better, but we can’t control that," said Bradley Beal, who is shooting 35.7 percent from 3-point range, second only to Kenny Boynton's 38.7 percent in SEC play. "We can only control things that we can control, like defense and rebounding. We can't just force the ball in. If we had control over it we wouldn't miss a shot. We have to keep fighting through and keep pushing."