Vols visit Gators today

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The O'Connell Center is centrally located in downtown Gainesville, so the Tennessee Vols will have no trouble finding the site of today's 4:01 tipoff against Florida. Finding the basket is another matter.

As Big Orange fans are acutely aware, the Vols are below-average shooters even when playing on their home floor. When playing on the road ... well, they're just plain bad.

To date, Tennessee has shot 43.5 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3-point range in five SEC home games. The Vols are a full seven percentage points worse in their four SEC road games, sinking just 36.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from 3.

Sophomore point guard Trae Golden shot well in Tennessee's first two SEC road games, going 7 for 11 at Mississippi State and 7 for 17 at Georgia. He fell in line with his teammates the past two outings, however, going a combined 4 of 17 at Vanderbilt (2 of 11) and Kentucky (2 of 6).

"It's probably all mental," he said. "We don't have any room for error when we go to Gainesville, so we have to get off of that and be ready to play."

No Vol has struggled in SEC road games the way senior wing Cameron Tatum has. He's shooting a frigid 14.3 percent (4 for 28) after going 0 for 7 at Mississippi State, 3 for 9 at Georgia, 1 for 5 at Vanderbilt and 0 for 7 at Kentucky.

Junior guard Skylar McBee hasn't been much better, connecting on a mere 18.8 percent (3 for 16) in SEC road games. Best known for his 3-point shooting, he's nearly twice as effective in SEC home games (9 for 22 ... 40.1 percent) as in SEC road games (3 for 13 ... 23.1 percent).

"I think it's a confidence thing," McBee said. "We've just got to know we can make 'em on the road. I don't think we want to, but I think we play a little bit different on the road ... a little more hesitant. We think the possessions are going to be a little limited, so we don't take as many shots as we do at home.

"Hopefully, that'll change going down to Florida. Hopefully, if we get an open look we'll knock it down."

Although Florida is ranked No. 8 nationally, the Vols should have confidence today. They played perhaps their best game of the year in beating the Gators 67-56 in the Jan. 7 meeting at Knoxville. Knowing they held Florida to season lows for points and field-goal percentage (35.7) should give the Vols a positive outlook.

"Definitely," Golden said. "Whenever we win a game it's going to help us. Every win is important for us in our postseason hopes right now, and we can't take any wins for granted."

Tennessee is 0-7 in true road games this season. Still, junior post Kenny Hall, who scored a season-high 13 points in the earlier meeting, believes the Vols can beat Florida again.

"Most definitely," he said. "The challenge is mental. Are we going to go out there and be ready mentally? Home, road or a neutral site, we can beat anybody. It's just a matter of keeping our heads straight and being head strong."

Here's a comparison of Tennessee's shooting in SEC home games versus SEC road games:

SEC home games

25-49 (51.0) vs. Florida ... 5-10 from 3 (50.0)

21-52 (40.4) vs. Kentucky ... 7-17 from 3 (35.3)

20-58 (34.5) vs. Auburn ... 4-20 from 3 (20.0)

19-42 (42.5) vs. Georgia ... 7-22 from 3 (31.8)

19-38 (50.0) vs. S. Carolina ... 10 of 20 from 3 (50.0)


104-239 (43.5) ... 33-89 from 3 (37.1)

SEC road games

23-54 (42.6) at Miss. State ... 7-14 from 3 (50.0)

22-55 (40.0) at Georgia ... 2-15 from 3 (13.3)

18-51 (35.3) at Vandy ... 1-10 from 3 (10.0)

16-57 (28.1) at Kentucky ... 7-18 from 3 (38.9)


79-217 (36.4) ... 17-57 from 3 (29.8)

NOTES: Tennessee brings a 12-12 overall record and a 4-5 SEC mark into today's game. Florida is 19-5 and 7-2.... Mid-term freshman Jarnell Stokes is expected to play today after missing Wedesday's game against South Carolina due to a wrist injury. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound freshman did not play when Florida visited Knoxville on Jan. 7 as he was awaiting eligibility approval from the SEC office.... Both Tennessee and Florida allow precisely 65.5 points per game but the Gators score 79.2 per game, whereas the Vols manage just 68.6.... Florida shoots a sizzling 39.5 percent from 3-point range. Only one Tennessee player shoots better than the Gators do as a team -- McBee at 40.4 percent.... The Vols are 8-0 when McBee scores 10 or more points.... Florida is expected to start 6-foot-10, 230-pound Erik Murphy (10.0 points per game), 6-foot-9, 247-pound Patric Young (10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds), 6-foot-3, 207-pound freshman Bradley Beal (14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds), 6-foot-2, 189-pound Kenny Boynton (17.6 points) and 5-foot-8, 177-pound Erving Walker (12.1 points, 5.0 assists).

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