The Florida Gators will hit the road twice this week and three times in their next four games. It’s a tall task for any team but Mike White’s team has made the road a home away from home this season.
Florida was forced to play its first 12 games away from Gainesville as Exactech Arena was being renovated and they’ve put together a 13-4 record away from home. Those first 12 games helped the team bond as they spent more than a month traveling together on busses, planes and hotel rooms. White, realizing the stress all that traveling can create has changed his normal practice routine.
”I think we’re in a good place right now. All of that can change with how you play, of course. We haven’t practiced too long. We’ve tried to keep that in mind,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of traveling. We’ve got more traveling right around the corner, so we’ve tried to go hard but go quick in terms of practices and in terms of film and the whole deal. I know we’re going to have to muster up a lot of energy this week on the road.”
Florida is also a veteran team. Seniors Justin Leon, Kasey Hill and graduate transfer Canyon Barry have all played huge roles for the team this season. Junior Chris Chiozza is hitting his stride, John Egbunu got the game ball in a win over Texas A&M last weekend and Devin Robinson is third on the team in scoring.
“I just think we’re a pretty good team. We’ve learned how to become pretty good at home, but because we’re pretty good, we’re able to take care of business on the road early,” White said. “I think other than just being a pretty good team we’re a little bit older, and I think that helps. And then also all of our experiences away from home out of necessity in the fall, I think, have helped us.”
Florida finishes the season with a critical stretch. After two road games this week they host South Carolina, who beat the Gators back in January, and then travel to Kentucky, where the Wildcats are waiting to avenge a 22-point loss to the Gators in Gainesville. It’s a critical stretch to end the season and the Gators are poised to enter the SEC and NCAA Tournament with a head full of steam, if they can keep this current six game winning streak going.
“That’s one of the main focuses. You know, just make sure we keep playing how we’ve been playing and not letting any noise come creep in,” Justin Leon said. “I think the team we have this year is a lot more mature than last year. We can see, obviously, that us focusing on the right things is working for us. So I think we just continue to do that.”