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Gators must fix issues to beat Zona

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has done a good job of beefing up its nonconference schedule over the past three seasons, but the Gators are dealing with a related issue.

It doesn't do much for your NCAA tournament résumé if you don't win some of those games.

So far, the 12th-ranked Gators are 0-for-2, losing road games to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Syracuse. Their next chance to get a nonconference victory that will impress the NCAA tournament selection committee is Wednesday night against Arizona at the O'Connell Center.

"We've only played two, and we've still got a lot more to go, but I think it would be pointless if we just lost them all," senior point guard Erving Walker said. "Let's hope that doesn't happen."

It will if Florida (5-2) continues to have the same problems it had against Ohio State and Syracuse. Those are the only two games this season in which the Gators had more turnovers than assists. They had 16 turnovers against the Buckeyes and 20 against the Orange -- their two highest totals of the season -- and the guards combined to commit 29 of the 36 turnovers. They had 20 assists.

More important than the number of turnovers, though, is the timing, UF coach Billy Donovan said. The Gators committed five in the first 7:30 of the second half against Ohio State, which helped the Buckeyes turn a three-point halftime lead into a 10-point lead. UF didn't get closer than eight points until 39 seconds remained.

Against Syracuse, Florida committed five turnovers in six minutes after tying the game at 49-49 with 9:07 remaining. That helped the Orange build an eight-point lead, and the Gators never got closer than five points until Walker hit a 3-pointer with one second remaining.

"You've got to put yourself in a position where you don't beat yourself," Donovan said. "Both of those games, in particular Ohio State, they did a great job but I also think we made some decisions offensively that really hurt us and we went for long stretches without scoring.

"When you're playing against [easier nonconference opponents], a turnover up 26 doesn't have the magnitude as it does when you turn it over with 3:34 left in the game [against a good team]. Or giving up an offensive rebound up 25 doesn't have the same magnitude as it does when the game's tied with 2½
to go. When you're playing good teams, there's not a lot of room for error."

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete said the Gators aren't sloppier against the better teams. They're actually trying to be too unselfish, and that's what is causing the additional turnovers.

"I think we're just looking to make the extra passes too much sometimes and I guess that's why we turn the ball over," Yeguete said. "[Elite teams] make you pay. We turn the ball over, they finish on the break, they're fast and strong so they have a lot of and-ones and they make their free throws. We can't really turn the ball over against really good teams because they make us pay for that."

Arizona (6-2) certainly can. The Wildcats are a lot like Florida in that they'll use a four-guard lineup at times. They can run with the Gators, too, so turnovers can quickly turn into fast-break points and that can turn a small lead into double digits in a relatively short amount of time.

"They have guys that can really put it down on the floor and create plays and situations for themselves," Donovan said. "Our ability to guard those guys will be a great challenge."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.