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Monday March 19, 2012 A few notes on the road with the Gators women's team in March Madness

Updated: 11:20pm, March 19

Lily Svete

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – If you’ve seen the video from the day when the Gators heard they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years, their excitement is … let’s say overwhelmingly obvious.

The announcement had special meaning for Florida forward Lily Svete, a redshirt sophomore who scored three points and grabbed two rebounds in Sunday’s win over Ohio State. (Svete is No. 31 in the photo above).

Florida’s trip here to northwest Ohio is almost like coming home.

“My grandmother and aunt actually live here,’’ Svete said.

Svete grew up in Granger, Indiana, about 160 miles from the campus of Bowling Green State University, site of first- and second-round games in the Des Moines Regional.

Svete’s father Lee and mother Jill have been regular visitors to the team’s hotel and on Sunday several extended family members visited to watch her play.

Jill Svete

“It’s just good to have them close,” Svete said after Monday’s practice. “We went out to dinner last night and they came. They have been coming to the hotel and bringing me goodies.”

When Svete hit a big three-pointer in the first half of Sunday’s game to give Florida a 25-17 lead, Lee and Jill got some face time on ESPN2’s national broadcast, a fact Svete learned when she logged onto her computer after the game.

“I have a lot of people who wrote on my Facebook page yesterday, ‘I saw your family. They zoomed in on them.’ I guess they were all going crazy.”

*****

The Gators unveiled a new fashion accessory for Sunday’s game against Ohio State.

They wore the same Nike Elite bright orange shoes the Gator men wore earlier this season as part of their Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniform against Tennessee.

The UF men lost at home to the Vols, but the shoes treated the Florida women better as they came out running and gunning in their 70-65 win over the Buckeyes.

The Gators plan to wear the shoes again on Tuesday against No. 1-ranked Baylor.

“They’re fun. I can’t really look at them for too long because they are really bright,’’ center Azania Stewart said. “I think everyone liked them. We managed to break them in for about three days before we came.”

*****

The Baylor athletics department was a national story for all the wrong reasons less than a decade ago due to a men’s basketball scandal that included a murder of a teammate.

Slowly Baylor has rebuilt its reputation and its prominence, highlighted by Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III for becoming the first player in school history to win the Heisman Trophy this past season.

Baylor’s long climb back toward national respect began when Bears coach Kim Mulkey led Baylor to the 2005 national title. Her reputation as a motivator spilled into other programs at the school as coaches in other sports asked her to speak to their teams.

“Coach does a lot for Baylor women’s basketball,’’ Bears center Brittney Griner said Monday. “It just made us smart. Everybody wants to do the same. She makes everybody around her better.

“She went to give the football team a pep talk and they were all talking about it all day saying, ‘Is she like that all the time?’  She’s definitely good for Baylor.”

*****

“I have a statement in mind – I’m money in clutch time.” – Gators sophomore guard Jaterra Bonds on Monday discussing making a pair of free throws late in Sunday’s win over Ohio State.

Bonds’ two free throws with 12 seconds left put Florida up 69-63 to essentially seal the game.

A puggle

*****

As soon as Bonds, Stewart and Gators coach Amanda Butler arrived on the podium for Monday’s press conference, my Blackberry started buzzing. After three missed calls, this text arrives from my wife: “Call me ASAP.”

Not only is that usually never good, it’s very rare I get a text like that from her. So I left to call her back.

The news wasn't good, but thankfully it had nothing to do with our two young daughters or her health. It was about a sweet furry friend we bought as a puppy in 2006.

Deciding three dogs was too many for our family’s lifestyle we later gave him to my mom and stepfather, who fell in love with him. He often visited us for a week at a time if my parents needed a dog-sitter and we regularly visited him in Orlando.

He never forgot us or our two other dogs and we never forgot him. That’s what made Monday so difficult when my wife told me he had to be put down by my parents due to a rare condition that causes instant paralysis.

He was a puggle named Gator. RIP good friend.

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