The first two months of the season have proven Florida is a very good home team. Now the Gators get a chance to test themselves on the road.
Second-ranked Florida plays only its second true road game of the season Saturday when it faces South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference matchup at the Colonial Center.Florida (15-2, 2-0) has won all 12 of its home games this season while losing its only road contest 70-66 at Florida State on Dec. 3. The Gators have also won three of four games at neutral sites.After playing the majority of their early-season schedule in Gainesville, the Gators will be on the road for three of their next four contests. They host Mississippi on Jan. 20 before visiting Mississippi State and Auburn.The Gators faced one of their toughest challenges of the season Tuesday, but were able to hold off Arkansas in a 79-72 victory. Taurean Green scored 17 points and Corey Brewer added 13 for Florida, which has won eight straight since losing to Florida State.Holding only a one-point halftime lead, the Gators drew inspiration from the Florida football team, which upset Ohio State on Monday in the BCS championship game. Florida, which marched to its first NCAA basketball championship last season, is the first school to hold national titles in both sports at the same time."Without knowing a lot about the X's and O's, I thought the most aggressive team won. The hungriest team won," Gators coach Billy Donovan said of the BCS matchup. "That's what happened last year for us. We were aggressive and hungry. We need to make sure we continue that."A strong inside presence coupled with a potent perimeter game has helped Florida to its No. 2 ranking.Forwards Joakim Noah and Al Horford combine for 24.4 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Brewer is second on the team with 13.1 points.Green leads the Gators with 13.8 points per game and backcourt mate Lee Humphrey adds 9.4, including a team-high 40 3-pointers.Florida could use improvement at the free-throw line, where it is shooting only 66.4 percent this season. The Gators shot 58.6 percent (17-of-29) from the line against Arkansas, a small improvement from its 50-percent efforts against Georgia and Liberty."The only thing I look at that I'm not thrilled about was the free-throw shooting," Donovan said. "We have to continue to get better in that area. We're working on it. The players got to get in around their class time when they're free for some extra shots."South Carolina (10-4, 0-1) opened league play Wednesday with an 80-56 loss at Georgia. Dwayne Day scored 14 points and freshman Dominique Archie added 10 for the Gamecocks, who have dropped two straight following a six-game win streak."The Gators are playing at the top of their game right now. It's remarkable what they've done in football and basketball, but particularly basketball," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "They've got the ability to score inside and outside and they're very comfortable together."South Carolina won both meetings during the regular season last year, but Florida posted a 49-47 victory in the SEC title game on March 12. The Gators have won eight of the last 10 matchups overall and three of their last four visits to the Colonial Center.