Despite its 21-3 start, the No. 5 Florida men’s basketball team has yet to prove it can beat a quality opponent on the road.
The Gators’ three stiffest road tests — against Arizona, Kansas State and Arkansas — have all ended in failure.
UF will have another chance to earn a signature road victory when it travels to Columbia, Mo., to face Missouri on Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN).
“We’ve been in situations like this throughout the whole year playing on the road, and I feel like this is just another challenge for us,” senior guard Mike Rosario said.
To this point in the season, those challenges have not gone smoothly.
Against Arizona on Dec. 15, UF led by six points with 56 seconds remaining before three turnovers and a missed free throw allowed the Wildcats to storm back for a 65-64 win.
Florida’s next road test against Kansas State on Dec. 22 wasn’t officially a road game, but it was held in Kansas City, Mo., about 100 miles from K-State’s campus in Manhattan, Kan. The Gators shot just 5-of-19 from 3-point range and struggled with the Wildcats’ pressure defense in a 67-61 loss.
Most recently, against Arkansas on Feb. 5, UF fell behind 36-13 less than 11 minutes into the game and could never recover.
“We lacked on defense early in the game, and it put us in a big hole,” Rosario said.
Florida’s only non-conference road wins came against 14-11 Florida State and 10-15 Yale. The Gators have won five Southeastern Conference road games, but none against a team with a winning record in league play.
To coach Billy Donovan, each road game presents a test, and Tuesday’s matchup against Missouri is no different.
“The noise level at any place is going to be loud,” Donovan said. “Our guys have played in difficult situations.”
Missouri is 14-0 in true home games and has won by an average margin of 20 points, although none of those victories have come against ranked teams.
The Tigers are also 1-6 in true road games, including an 83-52 drubbing against the Gators on Jan. 19. Missouri forward Laurence Bowers, who ranks second on the team with 14.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, is back in the rotation after missing that game because of a sprained right MCL.
“We’re going to have to handle some adversity and handle some runs,” Donovan said. “There’s going to be a multitude of challenges going into tomorrow night’s play.”