Thursday, January 12, 2012 Updated: January 13, 12:39 PM ET
Breaking the road hex
By Michael DiRocco GatorNation
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The road has not been good to the Florida basketball team this season.
In fact, it has been downright nasty.
Billy Donovan wants his team to cut down on turnovers and take better shots.
The 19th-ranked Gators (13-4, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are 0-4 in road games, which includes last Saturday's embarrassing loss at Tennessee. Their struggles can be boiled down to one reason: poor decisions.
"Focus," guard Kenny Boynton said as the Gators prepared for Saturday's game at South Carolina (8-8, 0-2). "If we come out from the get-go just focused on the things we need to do, we'll do a great job."
Florida has lost games at Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee. In those four games, the Gators are averaging 17.3 turnovers per game and shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range. In UF's 13 home or neutral-site games, the Gators are turning the ball over an average of 9.6 times and shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range.
Four of UF's six worst shooting games have come on the road, and the Gators' four highest turnover totals were the road losses.
The Gators have made poor decisions with the basketball, and UF coach Billy Donovan said the shot selection hasn't been as good on the road as it has been at home.
"I think the one thing that stands out to me is just our turnovers," Donovan said. "Being a team that's leading the league in assists-to-turnover ratio and number of assists, that's hurt us. That's something we've got to do a better job at.
"Our ability to make really good decisions, and I don't necessarily mean turning the ball over, but making good decisions of when to shoot and when not to shoot, that's got to get better, too."
The Gators haven't won a game on the road since beating Vanderbilt on March 5, 2011, in the regular-season finale. The road losses at Ohio State and Syracuse are understandable, since both were ranked in the top five of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll at the time of the games, and the Orange are now the nation's No. 1 team. But losing in double-overtime at Rutgers (which started three freshman guards) and at Tennessee (which had lost at home to Austin Peay) was troubling.
The players don't believe there's a problem with the team's psyche or attitude when it plays on the road.
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"I don't think there's anything mentally there," guard Erik Murphy said. "I said it last week that we've got a group of mentally strong guys. I think it's just something we've got to work on and continue to improve at."
After Saturday's loss in Knoxville, Donovan put the Gators through three brutal practices -- including two on Sunday -- during which they concentrated on defense and rebounding. They responded with their best defensive performance of the season in a 70-48 rout of Georgia on Tuesday in Gainesville.
Donovan's message to them after the game was this: Great, now do it on the road.
"We've got to have a level of understanding of the commitment and focus of playing on the road," Donovan said. "Can we now flip that switch mentally and be able to take that to the road? That's the challenge."
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.