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Sunday January 20, 2013 Butler says Gators need to get tougher

Updated: 8:16pm, January 20

Amanda Butler

Gators coach Amanda Butler urged her team to get tougher after Sunday's home loss to South Carolina.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule is heating up for the Florida women's basketball team.

Gators coach Amanda Butler has told her team what to expect. It means teams like South Carolina, one of the SEC's more physical teams, are going to bump and push and do whatever else it takes to win.

The Gators learned that lesson the hard way in Sunday's 52-44 loss to the Gamecocks at the O'Connell Center.

Butler was not too pleased afterward.

"I was so disappointed in the way we played,'' Butler said. "If you accept less then you are going to get less. That's not what we're going to do."

The second part of that quote referenced the absence of senior forward Jennifer George, the SEC's active career rebounds leader. George missed Sunday's game due to a nagging shoulder injury.

Without her presence inside, the Gamecocks flexed their muscles on the way to 26 offensive rebounds.

Sure, George's presence was missed. But Butler saw more issues than playing without the Gators' most physical post player.

"I think there's definitely lack of toughness in that stat,'' she said. "We just weren't physical enough."

The Gators could have moved ahead of the Gamecocks in the SEC standings with a win Sunday. Instead, they dropped to 13-6, 2-3 in the league; No. 19 South Carolina improved to 16-3, 4-2.

Squarely in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, the Gators will need to toughen up before Thursday when Ole Miss comes to town.

They will need to finish stronger in the paint offensively. They will need to fight harder for loose balls. And after getting outrebounded 59-41 Sunday -- snapping a string of 13 consecutive games with more rebounds than their opponent -- the Gators will need to crash the boards with a renewed intensity that was somewhere on the bench with George on Sunday.

"I just think it was a lack of toughness,'' Butler said of the disparity on the boards. "They turned up the heat on their toughness meter and we backed down. Those are the things we've got to look at. It's got to really upset us."

Center Vicky McIntyre started in place of George in Florida's four-guard lineup Sunday. She finished with four points and six rebounds, not nearly enough against a team like South Carolina.

"It wasn't acceptable,'' McIntyre said. "They are just a really physical team, probably the most physical team we have played thus far. It's something we did not do well adjusting to."

Here's about all you need to know about Sunday's game: South Carolina shot 23.4 percent (15 of 64), missed 16 free throws (17 of 33), and still won by eight.

Florida trailed by as many as 11 (17-6) in the first half but managed to climb back for a 35-35 tie in the second half.

The Gamecocks responded with a 10-0 run and held on despite not making a field goal in the final 9-plus minutes.

"Ugly, right," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "It was that kind of game. I think you saw two SEC teams that wanted to win and really didn't care how it looked.

"This was one which we felt we had to get."

Butler wants the Gators to feel that way Thursday.

If not, you can bet she once again won't be too happy after the game.

"You don't have time or room for that this time of year,'' she said of Sunday's letdown. "We've got a game on Thursday that counts just as much as this one and we've got to be ready. We've just got to be much, much tougher in the paint."

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