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Gators have to solve road woes

Dome sweet home is the story of 19th-ranked Florida’s (13-4, 1-1 SEC) this season. The Gators are 9-0 in the friendly confines of the O-Dome but they’re a totally different animal on the road. When the Gators visit South Carolina (8-8, 0-2 SEC) Saturday evening (7 p.m., Colonial Life Arena, CSS-TV) they will be looking for their first road win against a team that had Ohio State on the ropes in Columbia earlier in the season.

South Carolina's Bruce Ellington (23) will try to lead the Gamecocks past a Florida team that hasn't won a road game this year.

This is a critical game for the Gators, who not only have to prove they can win on the road, but can’t afford a second Southeastern Conference loss this early in the schedule. Florida opened the conference portion of the schedule on the road last Saturday by laying a 67-56 egg against Tennessee in Knoxville. The Gators bounced back at home Tuesday night with a dominating, 70-48, win over Georgia at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center but winning at home isn’t such a problem. Florida has won 15 straight at the O-Dome dating back to January 15, 2011 when South Carolina upset the Gators. Florida paid the Gamecocks back in Columbia three weeks later.

“We’ve got a different chemistry at home,” Florida’s leading scorer Kenny Boynton (18.9 points per game) said last Saturday after the Gators were shocked by Tennessee.

Certainly, the Gators play much better at home than they do on the road, but with seven more SEC road trips, they have to figure out how to play well away from the O-Dome and it needs to start against South Carolina. At 1-1 in the SEC, the Gators cannot afford to fall two games behind league leaders Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt this early in the season. Yes, it’s a long season (16 conference games), but with home and homes with Kentucky and Vanderbilt and a roadie to Alabama, plus road games at Ole Miss and Arkansas, Saturday night’s game falls into the must win category.

The Gators are a sparkling 93-28 in conference games at home in Billy Donovan’s 16 years on the job but 58-63 on the road. Donovan is 21-11 all-time against South Carolina, 9-6 against the Gamecocks in Columbia. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn is 3-3 against Donovan and the Gators.

SATURDAY’S MATCHUP

The coaches: Billy Donovan, Florida (408-171; 373-151 at Florida); Darrin Horn, South Carolina (168-98; 58-50 at South Carolina)
Streaks: Florida has won one in a row while South Carolina has lost two straight.
RPI: Florida is #44 nationally with a #101 strength of schedule. South Carolina is #184 nationally with a #110 strength of schedule.
Florida on the road: 0-4
South Carolina at home: 7-4
Key stats: Florida leads the SEC in scoring at 82.8 per game while South Carolina is next last at 63.9 ... The Gators are second in shooting (47.6 percent) in the SEC and first in 3-point shooting (40.6 percent) while South Carolina shoots only 42.6 percent overall and just 33.8 percent from the 3-point line ... Florida has taken a league-leading 451 3-pointers while South Carolina has taken only 302.
Best players: Kenny Boynton, Florida (18.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists); Bradley Beal (14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds); Malik Cooke, South Carolina (12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds); Bruce Ellington (10.4 points, 36.8 percent on 3-pointers)

OTHER SATURDAY GAMES IN THE SEC

KENTUCKY (16-1, 2-0) at TENNESSEE (8-8, 1-1)

Streaks: Kentucky has won eight straight; Tennessee has lost two in a row
RPI: Kentucky is #9 nationally with a #67 strength of schedule. Tennessee is #214 nationally with a #168 strength of schedule.
Kentucky on the road: 1-1
Tennessee at home: 7-2
Key stats: Kentucky gives up only 35.3 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from the 3-point line ... Kentucky leads the SEC in rebounding margin (+7.9) and blocked shots (9.2 per game) ... Tennessee averages 8.2 3-pointers per game and shoots 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Best players: Anthony Davis, Kentucky (12.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.6 blocked shots per game); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds); Trae Golden, Tennessee (14.6 points, 5.4 assists); Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee (11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds)

OLE MISS (11-5, 1-1) at AUBURN (10-6, 0-2)

Streaks: Ole Miss has won one in a row; Auburn has lost two in a row.
RPI: Ole Miss is #40 nationally with a #41 strength of schedule. Auburn is #170 nationally with a #249 strength of schedule.
Ole Miss on the road: 2-3
Auburn at home: 7-4
Key stats: Ole Miss shoots only 27.3 percent from the 3-point line and only 42.4 percent overall from the field ... Ole Miss scores only 65.9 per game while Auburn scores only 65.4.
Best players: Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss (10.6 points, 9.9 rebounds per game); Kenny Gabriel, Auburn (11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds)

ALABAMA (13-3, 2-0) at MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-3, 1-1)

Streaks: Alabama has won five in a row; Mississippi State has won one in a row.
RPI: Alabama is #15 nationally with a #19 strength of schedule; Mississippi State is #51 nationally with a #106 strength of schedule.
Alabama on the road: 2-2
Mississippi State at home: 10-1
Key stats: Alabama gives up just 26.3 percent from the 3-point line and 36.6 percent overall ... Alabama allows only 55.7 points per game ... Mississippi State is winning games by a 10.4 point margin ... Mississippi State is fourth in the SEC in scoring (75.6 per game)
Best players: Tony Mitchell, Alabama (14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds per game); Trevor Releford (12.8 points, 3.2 assists, 86.9 percent free throws); Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State (16.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 86.8 percent free throws); Dee Bost, Mississippi State (16.2 points, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals)

GEORGIA (9-7, 0-2) at VANDERBILT (12-4, 2-0)

Streaks: Georgia has lost two straight. Vanderbilt has won six in a row.
RPI: Vanderbilt is #35 nationally with a #19 strength of schedule. Georgia is #108 with a #49 strength of schedule.
Georgia on the road: 1-3
Vanderbilt at home: 7-3
Key stats: Vanderbilt is shooting 39.8 percent from the 3-point line and scoring 74.8 points per game ... Georgia is last in the SEC in scoring (61.9) and 11th in shooting percentage (40.6 percent) ... Vanderbilt averages 9.4 3-pointers per game.
Best players: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (19.9 points, 46.2 percent on 3-pointers); Jeffery Taylor (17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia (14.2 points); Gerald Robinson, Georgia (13.9 points)

LSU (11-5, 1-1) at ARKANSAS (12-4, 1-1)

Streaks: LSU and Arkansas have both lost one in a row.
RPI: LSU is #67 nationally with a #78 strength of schedule; Arkansas is #88 with a #144 strength of schedule.
LSU on the road: 3-2
Arkansas at home: 12-1
Key stats: Arkansas leads the SEC with 9.1 steals per game while LSU is second at 8.4 ... Arkansas leads the SEC with a +5 turnover margin while LSU is second at 3.9 ... LSU gives up only 60.4 points per game ... Arkansas is second in the SEC with 6.2 blocked shots per game.
Best players: Justin Hamilton, LSU (12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds); Anthony Hickey, LSU (8.9 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals); B.J. Young, Arkansas (14.8 points, 3.1 rebounds; Mardracus Wade (10.8 points, 47.8 percent on 3-pointers).

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