Florida hopes to end road woes at South Carolina
Florida guard Erving Walker knows what's coming.
If the 19th-ranked Gators win at South Carolina on Saturday, Walker believes coach Billy Donovan will continue the intense practices he put the team through this week. If the Gators lose, Walker says Donovan will ratchet it up even more.
''We're in a lose-lose situation,'' Walker said Friday.
Maybe so. But Florida (13-4, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) needs to turn things around on the road to reach its lofty goals. The Gators are 0-4 on the road, including surprising losses at Rutgers and Tennessee.
They hope to end the trend against the Gamecocks (8-8, 0-2).
''That's the big issue with our team right now: We haven't won on the road,'' center Patric Young said. ''I forgot what it feels like to win on the road, going into someone else's place and being able to beat them in their own house. I want that feeling again. I know our guys want that feeling again. We just want people to know that we're able to do it.''
Florida was one of the best road teams in the country last year, going 8-2 away from home. That helped Donovan's team earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But with three new faces in the starting lineup and several more players in difference roles, the Gators have found it difficult to carry over that success.
''I didn't realize how hard it's going to be playing somewhere else or how much more focused and together your team need to be to win on the road,'' Young said.
The Gators dropped games at Ohio State and Syracuse in the first month of the season, hardly cause for concern considering they are two of the top teams in the country. But losses at Rutgers and Tennessee were eye-openers.
Nonetheless, there have been similar problems in all four losses.
Florida averaged 17 turnovers in those games and shot a lower percentage than normal. In three of them - all but Syracuse - the Gators allowed their opponent to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.
''I think there's a learning process,'' Donovan said. ''As much I want that to be expedited and sped up and have it all figured out, there's certain things they've got to get better at. When you go on the road and play against good teams, if you do turn it over, if you do shoot a real low percentage, if you do give up a high percentage, that's a problem.
''It becomes very, very difficult to win on the road when you're giving up 48, 49 percent from the field, you're shooting anywhere from 38 to 42, and then on top of that, you're averaging 15, 16, 17, 18 turnovers in a game. That's not a formula on the road to really, really be able to win.''
After losing at Tennessee to open conference play last Saturday, Donovan put his team through two grueling practices the following day and then a week of intense and physical workouts.
''Coach D has been pretty much handing it to us in practice,'' Walker said.
Clearly, Donovan got his players' attention. They responded with a 22-point victory against Georgia at home Tuesday. Now, he wants to see them do the same on the road.
''As much I want them to figure it all out, it's something they have to go through,'' Donovan said.