Transition(ed) Defense

Transition(ed) Defense

Updated: 17 days, 19 hours, 13 minutes, 16 seconds ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida would put up a shot and players would crash the offensive glass. The shot would carom away and into the opposing team's possession and it was off to the fast-break races, far too often ending with an uncontested layup or wide-open 3-point shot. 

That scene played out over and over over against the Gators early in the season. In UF's first three losses — against Florida Atlantic at home, followed by Xavier and West Virginia in the Phil Knight Legacy at Portland, Ore. — it surrendered 21, 21 and 12 points in transition, respectively. That's an average of 18.6 per game. 

When the team reconvened following its disappointing tournament out west, Coach and his staff made a whole-sale change to address the Gators' "atrocious" (his words, repeated several times) transition defense. 

"We made some adjustments," Golden said. 

The biggest focused on rebounding philosophy. Now, instead of sending the 3-man to the glass for offensive rebounding purposes, the wing rotates back with the point guard and shooting guard, thus giving the Gators a three-man defensive backfield (excuse the football reference) to protect the open floor.

"When a shot goes up, it's simple … get back," sophomore wing said. "Don't even think about it. Get back and get a guy."

Sounds simple enough, but the results — and the tradeoffs that come with it — have been effective for the Gators (9-7, 2-0), whose defense has taken huge steps forward four games into Southeastern Conference play with a huge test Saturday afternoon against 20th-ranked Missouri (13-3, 2-2) at Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center. 

[Read senior writer Chris Harry's "Pregame Stuff" setup here]

Though the Tigers have dropped two of their last three, including Wednesday night's 82-64 trumping at Texas A&M, their offense still is ranked fifth in the country in efficiency and plays at a warp speed (15.8 seconds per possession) eclipsed by only powerhouse Alabama in the league. Mizzou loves to jack 3s (42.5 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc), but only three teams in the country top the 59.3 percent the Tigers make from the 2-point area, which is a testament to how they can spread the floor and create favorable matches. 

"This might be the best team we've played yet in transition," said fifth-year 6-foot-11 senior forward , who is averaging five blocks a game as the man in the middle of surging UF half-court defense. "They live off getting out and running and getting layups and wide-open 3s. We have to stop that."  Gators senior forward Colin Castleton(12), who has 20 blocks in four SEC games, is one of the elite protectors and half-court defenders in the league.

In defeating LSU 67-56 on the road Tuesday night, UF may have put together its finest all-around defensive game of the season. The Gators, though trailing for almost all of the first 26 minutes, defended at 32.2 percent for the night, holding LSU to 5-for-28 from 3, including 0-for-11 in the second half. 

They surrendered just one point in transition. 

"The strength of our team over the past month has been defense, specifically half court defense," Golden said. 

Missouri, led by 6-8, 250-pound senior forward Kobe Brown (15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game) has no interest — zero — in playing a half-court game. 

"And we're really good in the half court," Reeves said. 

The Tigers' 197th ranking in defensive efficiency attests to their desire to play up-and-down and daring opponents to score with them. At 85.9 points per game, they lead the SEC in scoring offense. In Mizzou's latest loss, however, A&M was having none of it. 

The Aggies were able to slow the game down, limit the Tigers to just 22.6 percent from 3 (7-for-31) and crushed them on the glass 42-25. The Gators are not a great rebounding team, but if they can turn the game into a half-court affair they've won half the battle. 

"This will be a great test for us," Golden said. "If we can get [this] team in the half court, we can probably pretty much get any team on our schedule in the half court."

— Florida would put up a shot and players would crash the offensive glass. The shot would carom away and into the opposing team's possession and it was off to the fast-break races, far too often ending with an uncontested layup or wide-open 3-point shot.That scene played out over and over over against the Gators early in the season. In UF's first three losses — against Florida Atlantic at home, followed by Xavier and West Virginia in the Phil Knight Legacy at Portland, Ore. — it surrendered 21, 21 and 12 points in transition, respectively. That's an average of 18.6 per game.When the team reconvened following its disappointing tournament out west, Coachand his staff made a whole-sale change to address the Gators' "atrocious" (his words, repeated several times) transition defense."We made some adjustments," Golden said.The biggest focused on rebounding philosophy. Now, instead of sending the 3-man to the glass for offensive rebounding purposes, the wing rotates back with the point guard and shooting guard, thus giving the Gators a three-man defensive backfield (excuse the football reference) to protect the open floor."When a shot goes up, it's simple … get back," sophomore wingsaid. "Don't even think about it. Get back and get a guy."Sounds simple enough, but the results — and the tradeoffs that come with it — have been effective for the Gators (9-7, 2-0), whose defense has taken huge steps forward four games into Southeastern Conference play with a huge test Saturday afternoon against 20th-ranked Missouri (13-3, 2-2) at Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center.Though the Tigers have dropped two of their last three, including Wednesday night's 82-64 trumping at Texas A&M, their offense still is ranked fifth in the country in efficiency and plays at a warp speed (15.8 seconds per possession) eclipsed by only powerhouse Alabama in the league. Mizzou loves to jack 3s (42.5 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc), but only three teams in the country top the 59.3 percent the Tigers make from the 2-point area, which is a testament to how they can spread the floor and create favorable matches."This might be the best team we've played yet in transition," said fifth-year 6-foot-11 senior forward, who is averaging five blocks a game as the man in the middle of surging UF half-court defense. "They live off getting out and running and getting layups and wide-open 3s. We have to stop that."Since tweaking the defense with the retreating wing, the Gators have reduced their points surrendered in transition to 9.0 per game in their four losses — and just 5.25 in the four SEC games. The commitment to getting back and walling up the open floor has helped UF hold six consecutive opponents to under 40-percent shooting overall and 27.3 from the 3-point line.In defeating LSU 67-56 on the road Tuesday night, UF may have put together its finest all-around defensive game of the season. The Gators, though trailing for almost all of the first 26 minutes, defended at 32.2 percent for the night, holding LSU to 5-for-28 from 3, including 0-for-11 in the second half.They surrendered just one point in transition."The strength of our team over the past month has been defense, specifically half court defense," Golden said.Missouri, led by 6-8, 250-pound senior forward Kobe Brown (15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game) has no interest — zero — in playing a half-court game."And we're really good in the half court," Reeves said.The Tigers' 197th ranking in defensive efficiency attests to their desire to play up-and-down and daring opponents to score with them. At 85.9 points per game, they lead the SEC in scoring offense. In Mizzou's latest loss, however, A&M was having none of it.The Aggies were able to slow the game down, limit the Tigers to just 22.6 percent from 3 (7-for-31) and crushed them on the glass 42-25. The Gators are not a great rebounding team, but if they can turn the game into a half-court affair they've won half the battle."This will be a great test for us," Golden said. "If we can get [this] team in the half court, we can probably pretty much get any team on our schedule in the half court."