Freeze Frame: Florida’s Three Point DefensePosted by Brian Joyce on January 28th, 2014
Last year’s scoring-deficient Tennessee offense put up 0.67 points per possession twice in embarrassing back-to-back losses against Georgetown and Virginia. It doesn’t get much worse than a pair of showings like that, but this isn’t last year’s Volunteers either. Cuonzo Martin’s squad ranks 33rd in offensive efficiency this season, even scoring above a point per possession in a road loss to Kentucky last week. Florida, on the other hand, boasts one of the nation’s most efficient defenses, but not even the biggest Gators’ homer expected the domination that we witnessed between the two schools on Saturday. Florida held Tennessee to just 0.69 points per possession, limiting the Volunteers to 26.8 percent shooting from the field in a defensive clinic.
In a box score filled with reasons why the Gators put this one away on their home court, I was most impressed with Florida’s ability to defend the three-point shot. The Vols aren’t a good long range shooting team this year, but they are certainly better than the 5.3 percent that they shot from distance on Saturday. Less than two weeks ago, Sports Illustrated‘s Luke Winn looked at how effective the top teams in his power rankings were at defending the arc. He didn’t look specifically at the Gators, a team on the rise in his weekly analysis, but now seemed like a great time to follow up on his work in the wake of Florida’s dominant performance.
I looked at all eight of Tennessee’s three-point attempts in the first half of Saturday’s beatdown. Florida rotated well, closed out on shooters quickly, and generally did not give up any open looks on the perimeter as the Vols struggled to find a weakness in the Gators’ armor. Tennessee made one first half three-pointer, which just so happened to be the only time that the Gators didn’t get a hand in Jordan McRae’s face. The Volunteers missed all 11 of their three-point attempts in the second half, but many of those were bad shots in an effort to shoot themselves back into a game that was quickly turning into a blowout, so I chose to focus on the first half shots only. You can see from the below frozen frames that Florida got a hand in the face of each Tennessee shooter, causing those seven first half misses from beyond the arc.
Florida’s interior defense is solid (as pointed out in the SEC Morning Five on Monday and SI.com‘s One and One blog on Saturday), forming the bulk of its defensive possessions, but it was the perimeter players who came away with the most impressive defensive ratings by creating turnovers and getting out on to those perimeter shots. Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier all scored in double figures on Saturday, but their hustle in closing out on shooters around the arc is arguably where they made the biggest impact against Tennessee and in the Gators’ five other SEC victories.
The Gators are 6-0 in conference play, and with perimeter defense like that it will be tough to put a halt to Florida’s winning ways. Donovan’s team has an interior defense that allows opponents to shoot just 41.8 percent from inside the three-point line. With the way Florida showed that it can also defend the arc on Saturday, it is tough to foresee where conference opponents will find enough points to derail the Gators’ SEC title run.