- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Lost in Florida's struggle to replace the injured Will Yeguete and accompanying two-game losing streak is the fact that the Gators broke a pretty significant school record on Tuesday night.
Florida went 8-for-23 from 3-point range in a 77-67 loss at Vanderbilt and now has made 301 3-pointers this season, four better than the previous mark of 297 set by the 2006-07 national championship team. The Gators are shooting 39.2 percent from 3-point range, which is currently tied for the best mark in school history -- which also was set by the '06-'07 team.
It's not a surprise that the Gators broke the record, considering they're attempting 25.6 3-pointers per game and lead the nation in 3-pointers per game (10.0). But when teams rely on the 3-pointer that much, things often don't go well when those shots aren't falling -- and the Gators have struggled in Southeastern Conference play when they haven't shot the ball well from long range.
UF is shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range (95-of-234) in its 10 SEC victories. In five losses, however, the Gators are shooting just 29.6 percent from 3-point range (37-of-125). There certainly are other reasons why the Gators lost those games -- poor perimeter defense (opponents shot 47.5 percent from 3-point range), ball-handling (more turnovers than assists in four games), and shot selection, for example -- but not shooting the ball well from 3-point range made it hard to overcome those issues.
Coach Billy Donovan wants the 13th-ranked Gators (22-8, 10-5 SEC) to keep putting up 3-point attempts even when they're not falling. It's the team's identity.
"I think we’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, so if we’re open we need to shoot 3s," he said. "If Erving Walker is open and he’s got a 3-point shot, I want him to shoot it. What else is he going to do? Is he going to drive into the lane against 7-footers and go in there and dunk? You take what the defense gives you.
"If it’s a good shot I think you have to take it. We’re too good of a shooting team. I think we would be hurting ourselves if we didn’t take open shots."
UF -- which plays host to top-ranked Kentucky (28-1, 14-0) to close out the regular-season on Sunday -- also is closing in on the school record for most 3-point attempts (802 by the 2008-09 team). The Gators are 35 shy of tying that mark and are averaging 25.6 3-point attempts per game, which means they should break it in their first game in the SEC Tournament.