Gators Player Profile: What Makes Guard Noah Locke So Streaky?

GrahamMarsh_

Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard had the ball near the free-throw line. He dribbled quickly to his right, then stopped.

Auburn's wing defender cheated inside to clog a potential lane for Nembhard to drive through. 

Dish. Catch. Shoot. Count it. 

Florida shooting guard Noah Locke sank a trey in his double-digit scoring afternoon in January. 

Those three points were a part of Locke's 14-point day against then No. 4 Auburn. The Baltimore, Maryland, native is the main floor stretcher for the Gators. However, inconsistency has marked his time in Gainesville more than anything. 

And why is that? Why does he seemingly come and go so quickly as far as his influence on the game? 

What he means

I wrote about Locke back in February about how much he impacts this team. Essentially through the numbers, the story showed that Florida's wins are very closely connected to the temperature of his shooting stroke. 

When he was hot, so were the Gators. When he was cold, so were the Gators. Case in point, the FSU game where he went 0-7 from beyond the arc and Florida got dominated 63-51. 

And it wasn't just about the shots. This was an emotional team all season that's effort came and went. And so much of it was tied to the stroke of the 6-foot-3 sophomore. 

He could also have the complete opposite impact of the Florida State loss. He could also get streaky in the good way from downtown and completely take over a game. 

The same way his poor shooting is contagious, his good shooting sets everyone else up. If Locke sinks a few early treys, all the sudden everything else is cleared up. Kerry Blackshear, Keyontae Johnson, Andrew Nembhard and others could all work through him, playing outside-in basketball. 

Typically by the second half of games where Locke was hot, UF got to play four-on-four on the offensive end. The only way to defend a hot hand like that is to face-guard him, and that's going to essentially eliminate any shot at help defense for anyone else. 

And even without face-guarding, if the help is coming out to defend him on the wing, easy layups will ensue. Watch this clip against Vanderbilt of Keyontae Johnson's dunk. 

When Florida forward Omar Payne sets a pick to get Locke open, Payne's defender shoots out to Locke on the perimeter. Clearly Payne and Locke's defender weren't on the same page as to whether they should switch on a screen for a hot shooter like that. 

This left Johnson with no obstacles on his way to an easy dunk in the second half against the Commodores. 

What he needs

Locke is a three-point specialist at 43.2 percent a game from beyond the arc. In college basketball, that percentage is plenty to stretch the floor. 

So it begs the question: 

How does a shooter that good, have some nights that bad? 

It isn't that uncommon for Locke to drop 15 or more in any given contest. But it also isn't that uncommon for him to barely score five. He has six games this season with five points or less. He also had two more where he only scored six. 

One answer is that he is not a super flexible shooter. He often needs to be schemed open. 

Watch this clip of two threes he hit against Georgia. 

Notice how both times it required multiple picks and good passes from Nembhard. Both plays confuse Georgia defenders against both man and a 2-3 zone to get him open looks. 

Scheming Locke open like this isn't a bad thing at all. But it shows that he never really creates his own separation, he has to be schemed open. That's why sometimes he is a huge factor, and other times not. 

It really just depends on how much of an emphasis the other team has on him defensively and if they communicate enough to keep a hand close to him, especially from the corner. 

Overall

Locke is physically limited. He doesn't have the extra gear of athleticism that Johnson or forward Scottie Lewis do. He doesn't have the distributing abilities of Nembhard. 

So really his only contribution is to hit threes. All he can do is continue to sharpen his stroke and get more consistent. 

Right now, he is a guy that defenses sometimes need to worry about. He needs to become somebody that defenses always worry about. 

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