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Florida vs. Oklahoma, Game Thread: Can Gators storm into Norman?

Will hot shooting travel with the Gators for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge?

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball’s three-point shooting has been a tale of two weeks over its last three games.

Against South Carolina on January 18, the Gators went 0-for-17. Against Vanderbilt on January 21, they improved, but only to 8-for-25. Against LSU on Wednesday, though, the Gators knocked down 19 of their 33 threes, setting a new school record for threes in a game and torching the Tigers in a 106-71 rout.

It stands to reason that if Florida can shoot as well against the Oklahoma Sooners in Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in Norman (2 p.m., ESPN or WatchESPN), the Gators should walk away with another win.

Whether Florida can do that remains to be seen, obviously, but the likelihood of a repeat performance would seem to be low. Devin Robinson and Eric Hester combined to drain 10 of those 19 threes on just 13 takes — Hester’s 5-for-5 night was maybe the surpise of the season — and three other Gators (KeVaughn Allen, Chris Chiozza, and Justin Leon) went 3-for-6 on the evening despite shooting under 50 percent from three on the year. That many superlative performances combined is vanishingly rare — hence the school record — and regression to their means is overwhelmingly likely.

But: Hester is now 8-for-13 on the year from distance, a very promising performance in a small sample size that might get him more burn. Leon is at 42.4 percent on the year, and has made at least two threes in all seven of his games as a Gator in which he’s taken five or more — Mike White can trust Leon to make good on his attempts, which in turn means that White can try to create more threes for him.

And Allen, who has a rep as a streaky shooter and a penchant for throwing up bad shots because he can get them with his athleticism and quick release, is still at just a hair under 40 percent from three, a fine percentage that makes his volume of attempts tolerable at worst.

Chiozza and Robinson — and especially the diminutive Chiozza, who needs a long-range shot to stay a scoring threat — improving from three and Canyon Barry — a willing sniper, if a streaky one — would give Florida five or six options that make sense on the perimeter. And if the Gators can space out and sink those shots, the one-on-one opportunities that John Egbunu thrives on underneath will be available, along with isolation opportunities for drivers like Hill and Allen who sometimes get doubled by sagging defenders.

The three can make Florida’s offense extremely potent, and it did against LSU. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Florida try to shoot to a lead in Norman.

Oklahoma will have some say in the matter, obviously, but it also allows opponents to shoot better than 35 percent from three and get more than a third of their points from beyond the arc. If Florida wants to keep firing away, it will probably have its chances — even if getting into a shootout with Jordan Woodard, Christian James, and a Sooners roster that shoots nearly 38 percent from three is probably not a brilliant idea.