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Marshae Dotson tied her season-high of 22 points (photo: Bob Stowell)

Tuesday March 24, 2009W-Basketball Falls to No. 1 UConn in NCAA Second Round

Storrs, CT

Marshae Dotson tied her season-high of 22 points (photo: Bob Stowell)

One of the finest seasons in Florida women’s basketball history came to a close on Tuesday night, when the eighth-seeded Gators dropped an 87-59 decision to top-seeded Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament Second Round in front of 8,237 fans at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.


Senior forward Marshae Dotson (Columbus, Ohio) scored a team-high 22 points to lead the Gators, who were plagued by foul trouble for the majority of the game. Dotson, whose 22-point performance included a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the seventh time this season and the 22nd time in her career.


Florida, which on Sunday posted its first NCAA Tournament victory since the 2004 season, concludes its 2009 campaign with a 24-8 overall record. The Gators tied a school record for the most victories in a single season, tying the 1995, 1997 and 2001 teams with 24 wins.


Junior guard Lonnika Thompson (New Orleans, La.) tallied 11 points, including three 3-pointers, while junior guard Steffi Sorensen (Jacksonville, Fla.) added nine points – all of which came from beyond the arc - and tied a career high with four steals. Senior center Aneika Henry (Coconut Grove, Fla.) brought down a team-high seven rebounds.


“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “We really didn’t come in here just to keep it interesting - wee came here to win. At the same time, Connecticut is fantastic. They’re very, very talented and I love how hard they play. I am especially proud of our team and how hard they battled today. I thought we executed with a lot of pride and a whole lot of toughness. We did the best that we could and I think we had some fantastic individual performances. It was just a fantastic year and a big step forward for our program. This is a very, very special group of young women that I have been proud to coach.”


Tuesday’s game marked the final game in a Gator uniform for seniors Sha Brooks (Jackson, Tenn.), Kim Critton (Memphis, Tenn.), Dotson and Henry. The quartet finished its Florida career with two NCAA Tournament appearances and a record of 72-53 during the four-year stretch. That group of seniors was part of three teams that posted 19 or more wins and advanced to postseason play.


The Gators shot 31.3 percent (20-of-64) from the floor in the game, while the Huskies shot 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the field. Connecticut held a 51-28 rebounding edge for the game. Florida connected on 91.7 percent (11-of-12) of its free throws, but the Huskies knocked down 22-of-29 from the charity stripe.


UConn took a 47-26 advantage into the locker room at intermission after a foul-plagued first half for the Gators. The Gators shot 30.3 percent (10-of-33) from the floor in the opening period, compared to the Huskies 37.1 percent (13-of-35) shooting, but Connecticut held a 34-13 edge in rebounding.


The two teams battled evenly to begin the game, as both squads struggled to find their shooting touches. Connecticut scored the first five points of the game after missing each of their first six shots from the field. The two teams then began trading baskets before UConn, leading 10-7, scored four consecutive points to go up 14-7 with 12:42 remaining. It was at that point that Brooks was forced to the bench with three early fouls. She would remain on the sidelines for the remainder of the opening period.


After Sharielle Smith (Bradenton, Fla.) knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, the Huskies responded with a 3 of their own to extend their advantage to seven, 17-10, heading into a timeout at the 11:44 mark of the first half. A put-back by Dotson brought the Gators to within five, 17-12, before UConn went on an 8-0 run to go up 25-12 with 8:29 remaining. A three-point play by Dotson then sparked an 8-1 Florida run that whittled its deficit down to six, 26-20, with 6:51 left, forcing UConn head coach Geno Auriemma to burn a timeout. From there, the Huskies rattled off 13 consecutive points and closed the half on a 21-6 run.


Florida matched UConn basket-for-basket early in the second half, but the Gators were never able to get any closer than 20 points for the remainder of the game.


No. 1/1 Connecticut (35-0) was led by guard Renee Montgomery’s game-high 25 points, while Tina Charles and Maya Moore both added 22 points. The Huskies advance to the regional semifinals in Trenton, N.J., where they will face fifth-seeded California.


Florida, which was making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, is now 10-12 all-time in NCAA play.



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