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Sunday March 22, 2009Women's Basketball Defeats Temple in NCAA First Round, 70-57

Storrs, CT

Senior Sha Brooks (Jackson, Tenn.) scored a game-high 18 points and junior Steffi Sorensen (Jacksonville, Fla.) charted her first career double-double to help the University of Florida women’s basketball team earn a 70-57 victory against Temple on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

 

The eighth-seeded Gators (24-7), who tied the school record for wins in a season, advance to Tuesday’s NCAA Second Round, where they will face No. 1 seed Connecticut (34-0), a 104-65 winner against Vermont. Tip-off has been set for 7:11 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPN2.

 

Florida, which was making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and its first since 2006, notched the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since the Gators defeated New Mexico, 68-56, on March 20, 2004.

 

“We knew today was not going to be easy for a lot of reasons,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “At the top of that list is what a fine team Temple is and how well coached they are. I think that one of the things that is special about our team is that there have been so many times this year when games got tough and things didn’t look so good, and they just weren’t going to be denied. They weren’t going to back off, they weren’t going to go away; they were going to find another way to win or another person was going to step up and make the plays that we needed at that moment to make sure that we did get the win.”

 

As has been customary with many of the team’s wins during the season, Florida received a balanced effort from its lineup that included three players in double-figure scoring. The Gators shot 46.4 percent (26-of-56) from the floor and a season-best 92.3 percent (12-of-13) clip from the free-throw line. UF’s defense limited Temple to 39.0 percent (23-of-59) shooting and held the Owls without a 3-pointer on 12 attempts.

 

“I don’t think we played our best basketball today, but we certainly played well enough to win,” Butler said. “For them [Temple] not to be able to hit a 3 was a big plus for us, but at the same time, it is no surprise. We’ve had this huge break to practice and this is a team that really takes advantage of those opportunities to get better. I think it was big, though, for our program to be back in the NCAA Tournament – not just happy with being back in, but being back in and expecting to advance.”

 

Florida, which was out-rebounded 20-16 in the first half, used a strong second-half rebounding performance to win the battle of the boards, 38-32. Sorensen was a big reason for the Gators’ rebounding success, bringing down a career-high 13 rebounds to complement 13 points. She tied her career-high with 38 minutes of playing time on Sunday, while collecting three steals.

 

Steffi puts in that type of performance really every ballgame,” Butler said. “She gets her hands on so many balls but it just seemed like tonight, she was able to secure more of them. She really is the X factor for our team, because that’s what we were missing. We talked at halftime about how we were in those rebounding battles, but Temple was coming up with the possession every single time. Somebody had to make a difference – somebody had to change that trend. Obviously, Steffi took that to heart.”

 

Brooks’ game-high 18 points included two 3-pointers and a perfect 6-for-6 mark from the free-throw line in 36 minutes of action. Senior forward Marshae Dotson (Columbus, Ohio) added 13 points, five rebounds and three steals. Dotson connected on each of her first four shots from the floor to get the Gators off to a fast start.

 

Freshman guard Trumae Lucas (Greensboro, N.C.) registered eight points, while junior forward Sharielle Smith (Bradenton, Fla.) added seven points. Senior center Aneika Henry (Coconut Grove, Fla.) chipped in six points on a perfect 3-for-3 performance from the field.

 

Florida took a 41-33 advantage into the locker room at intermission after shooting a sizzling 60.7 percent (17-of-28) from the floor in the opening period. The Gators limited Temple to just 36.4 percent (12-of-23) shooting from the field in the first half and denied the Owls any 3-point opportunities.

 

Temple scored the first four points of the game before Florida rallied by scoring seven of the next 11, including five by Dotson, to knot the score at 7-7. The two teams then began trading baskets until back-to-back baskets by Henry and Dotson sparked a 6-2 run that put Florida ahead 17-13 with 12:32 remaining in the half.

 

With the Gators leading 20-15 after a 3-pointer by Sorensen from the left wing, the Owls knocked down back-to-back baskets to cut within one, 20-19, with 9:45 left until intermission. Florida then used an impressive 11-0 run over the next 3:11 to extend its advantage out to 12, 31-19. Trailing 34-21 after a Brooks 3-pointer, Temple began working its way back into the game with an 8-0 run – primarily through successful free-throw shooting - to cut within five, 34-29, with 1:51 remaining in the period. The two teams traded baskets to close out the half.

 

Temple stormed out of the locker room on a 6-2 run to cut within four, 43-39, before a 3-pointer by Sorensen at the 17:51 mark put Florida back ahead by seven, 46-39. That trey sparked a 9-0 run by the Gators that put them ahead 52-39 at the 15:56 mark of the second period and forced Temple head coach Tonya Cardoza to burn a timeout. From there, the Owls’ Shanea Cotton connected on back-to-back shots to help Temple begin working its way back into the game.

 

With Temple trailing by 11, after a Henry lay-up made the score 54-43, the Owls used a 6-0 run to cut within five, 54-49, with 8:30 left. Sorensen and junior guard Susan Yenser (Marietta, Ga.) each drained 3s, sandwiched between a Cotton lay-up, to put Florida back up by nine, 60-51.The Yenser 3-pointer commenced an 11-2 run that put Florida ahead 68-53 with 3:40 left and the Gators would not look back. Temple got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

 

Temple (21-10) was led by Shenita Landry’s team-high 13 points, while Kristen McCarthy added 12 and Jasmine Stone chipped in 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

 

POST-GAME NOTES

·         The Gators and Owls met for the sixth time in the history of the two programs. Florida now leads the all-time series between the two teams 5-1, including a 4-0 record against the Temple when the game is played away from Gainesville.

·         UF is 26-6 all-time vs. teams in the current alignment of Temple’s Atlantic-10 Conference, including a 4-0 mark under head coach Amanda Butler.

·         Florida equaled the most victories ever recorded in a single season in program history. Florida ties the 1995 (24-9), 1997 (24-9) and 2001 (24-6) squads with 24 victories.

·         Making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, Florida is now 10-11 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, including a 7-5 mark in first-round contests.

·         Florida’s 20 assists as a team tied a season high. The Gators also dished out 20 assists vs. Coppin State on Dec. 10.

·         The Gators shot a season-best 92.3 percent (12-of-13) from the free-throw line.

·         Senior guard Sha Brooks finished with a team-high 18 points giving her 517 for the season. It marks the 12th time a Gator has 500 or more points in a season and Brooks is the 10th different Florida player to accomplish that feat.

·         Senior forward Marshae Dotson connected on each of her first four shots from the field and finished with 13 points.

·         Junior guard Steffi Sorensen recorded her first career double-double on Sunday, finishing with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

·         Brooks started her program-record 122nd consecutive game; and tied Tamara Stocks’ all-time program mark by starting her 124th career game

·         Brooks moved into fifth place on UF’s all-time scoring chart, as she became the fifth game to top the 1,800-point milestone in a career – she ended the game with 1,812

·         Dotson topped the 1,500-point plateau during the game, ending with 1,507

 

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