Friday November 11, 2011Women's Hoops Edged by Michigan, 69-66, in Season-Opening Nail-biter
Jordan Jones knocked down a team-high 21 points for the Gators.
Senior guard Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) knocked down a UF career-tying five three-pointers and rallied for 21 points – just shy of a her UF career-high 25 – but a physical back and forth battle with Michigan that consisted of 29 lead changes and 13 ties fell short for the Gators, 69-66, in the team’s season-opener Friday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
“You have to give Michigan a lot of credit for the way they played and the way they executed. They really looked like a solid and experienced veteran team,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought they did an exceptional job of executing their game plan and what would be effective against us – I thought that we didn’t, plain and simple. I felt we didn’t do a good job of winning the paint. We shot way too many threes and a lot of them didn’t make sense. My biggest disappointment in how we played was that we didn’t pay enough attention to our defensive game. Luckily, this is our first game and not our last and we have, obviously, a lot of areas to improve and a great opportunity to do that when we play again on Monday.”
A crowd of 3,028 gathered to watch Florida (0-1) open the 2011-12 season against Michigan (1-0), and what a show they got. The Gators rallied for 10 treys, with five different student-athletes connecting from behind the arc, led by Jones’ five, while sophomore Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) knocked down two and senior Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) and sophomores Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) and Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) tallied one apiece.
“We tried to focus on stopping (Jordan) Jones from the start of the game and she still got 13 threes off on us,” Michigan head coach Kevin Borseth said. “She can really fill it up and shoot it. They ran some nice plays that Amanda has for them and they got us on a couple double-screens. She (Jones) got open and to her credit, made them. She was the focus from the start.”
Bartley (11) and Jones (21) each scored in double-digits as Jones achieved her 50th career double-figure scoring. For Bartley, it was the 11th of her Florida career. The Gators’ starting lineup collaborated for 48 points and 20 of UF’s 36 rebounds on the evening, while the bench chipped in 18 points and nine boards. Eight of UF’s nine players put up points, while all nine grabbed at least one rebound, led by senior Azania Stewart’s (Wood Green, England) six. Stewart was 3-for-5 from the floor and 2-for-3 from the charity stripe, finishing with eight points, but was strapped with foul trouble most of the evening.
Friday’s contest was a fight until the end in the first meeting between Michigan and Florida – neither team led by more than six points throughout the duration of the full 40 minutes – leading to a climatic finale that ended in a heartbreaker for the Gators.
With just under three minutes left in regulation, Bartley had success on a breakaway layup to take Florida up, 60-59, after the Gators forced one of the Wolverines’ 18 turnovers in the game, but Michigan responded with a Rachel Sheffer jumper to take UM up, 61-60. The final charge started when senior Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) laid in a shot that put UF up, 62-61, with 2:03 on the clock, but Michigan’s Carmen Reynolds countered with a three that gave the Wolverines momentum and a 64-62 advantage. Following a Jones foul, Courtney Boylan capitalized with an and-one layup that extended the UM lead, 67-62, following the free throw with 27 seconds remaining.
Florida was persistent, though, showing drive until the end as Stewart battled underneath, drawing a foul and knocking down one of two free throws to narrow the margin, 67-63, with 17.1 seconds on the clock. Reynolds’ effort was relentless as the senior rallied for her final points on a layup with six seconds left that gave Michigan its largest lead of the game – six points – and sealed the deal for the Wolverines with 69 points.
“It was a game where we really didn’t catch fire until the last two minutes and there were like 20-some lead changes. I don’t think the lead was any more than a possession that whole game and it was pretty much tooth and nail,” Borseth continued. “It really wasn’t until the last two minutes of that game when we got that five-point lead – I don’t want to say it was on ice because it was never on ice at that point. We knew at the beginning of the game it would be possession-by-possession and I think these guys did a great job of being strong when they had to.”
The Gators were able to tack on three more points on a Bonds three at the buzzer, but the Gators moved to 21-17 all-time on opening day as Michigan earned its first victory of the season in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Florida shot just 33.3 percent (23-69) overall from the floor, with a 10-of-27 effort from beyond the arc, while Michigan shot a steady 49.1 percent (27-55), with 5-of-12 from long range, while winning the rebounding battle 42-36 and outscoring the Gators 32-18 in the paint.
After a 33-30 halftime deficit in favor of UM, Jones jumped out of the gate with back-to-back threes to kick off the second period, but seven lead changes and two ties between the two physical squads ate up the first 10 minutes of the second half. Florida’s largest lead of the contest came with 9:59 on the clock when the Gators went on an 8-2 run to go up, 50-46, following a Lewis layup; but Michigan’s 49 percent shooting form the floor proved to be a little too much for the Orange and Blue.
Michigan grabbed 42 rebounds to UF’s 36, but the Gators forced 18 Wolverine turnovers, only committing 11.
Florida started the night right, winning the opening tip of the contest and allowing Jones to set the early tone by draining her initial three-pointer to get Florida on the board first. A physical back-and-forth exchange through the first 20 minutes kept the game fairly even as the teams entered the locker room at the half with just a three-point differential.
The first half brought eight ties and 11 lead changes between the two squads, with Jones leading the Orange and Blue with three treys and two free throws for 11 points. Bartley and Bonds both collaborated for five points, as Bartley hit a clutch three early to put UF up, 8-6.
Florida took advantage from the charity stripe, going 5-for-6 to capitalize on seven Michigan fouls, but a pesky UM offense that shot 50 percent from the floor in the first period gave the Wolverines a presence as Boylan led the Michigan offensive output with eight points, while Sheffer and Reynolds each had seven.
Michigan and Florida traded points for the first 10 minutes as Jones and Bartley both hit threes, Bartley layed one in and Bonds and Stewart each chipped in four points apiece before Lewis snagged an offensive rebound and hit a jumper to knot the game at 18-all.
It was nearly three and a half minutes of solid defense for both teams before a Nicole Elmblad layup broke the tie in favor of Michigan at the 7:09 mark, followed by a free throw from Boylan that gave the Wolverines the 21-18 lead. Jones was quick to strike back as she sunk a three to tie the score at 21 with just over five minutes on the clock.
Jones rallied for two free throws and her third three of the half down the stretch, while Svete hit her first of two threes in the game and Bonds sunk a free throw to give UF 30 points at the half. Sheffer and Reynolds knocked down back-to-back layups to carry UM into the locker room ahead by three.
Boylan (21), Reynolds (15) and Sheffer (13) led the Wolverines in scoring, while Boylan and Jenny Ryan collaborated for seven boards each on the defensive end for Michigan.
The Gators will continue their four-game season-opening home stand Monday, Nov. 14, when they take on the team from Stetson. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be a salute to veterans and the military, with tickets available to military personnel and their families at the price of $2 per ticket. The first 500 fans will receive a special RED, WHILE and BLUE Gator t-shirt in honor of Veteran’s Day.
· The Gators are 21-17 on opening day, including 13-6 when first game of year is at home, have won five of the last seven season-openers and 15 of the last 18 games to begin a season
· As a team, Florida tallied 10 three-pointers, achieved last time at home on 12/20/10 vs. Alabama State…tonight’s contest marks the sixth time UF has hit 10 threes at home
· Five different UF players tallied a trey Friday to collaborate for UF’s 10
· Florida head coach Amanda Butler is 50-18 overall at home
· Senior Jordan Jones hit five threes Friday, tying her Florida career-high, last established versus FIU 11/29/09
· For Jones, her 21-point performance marked her 50th double-digit career performance and was just four points shy of a UF career-high
· Florida limited Michigan, a team that scored 7.4 threes per game in 2010, to just five Friday
· Florida had 12 steals, compared to Michigan’s five
· The loss snapped UF’s 11-game non-conference home win streak
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler
“You have to give Michigan a lot of credit for the way they played and the way they executed. They really looked like a solid and experienced veteran team. I thought they did an exceptional job of executing their game plan and what would be effective against us – I thought that we didn’t, plain and simple. I felt we didn’t do a good job of winning the paint. We shot way too many threes and a lot of them didn’t make sense. My biggest disappointment in how we played was that we didn’t pay enough attention to our defensive game. Luckily, this is our first game and not our last and we have, obviously, a lot of areas to improve and a great opportunity to do that when we play again on Monday.”
On attempting 27 three-pointers
“If we were open on the three-point line, we took shots whether they were smart shots or not. Twenty-seven threes is way too many unless you are shooting 45 percent and clearly we were not. I felt that they really just wanted to challenge us to shoot and we took the challenge even though it wasn’t the wisest to do so.”
Florida Senior Center Azania Stewart
On foul trouble
“It is definitely frustrating because I need to be out there to help us win.”
Michigan Head Coach Kevin Borseth
On the game play down the stretch
“It was a game where we really didn’t catch fire until the last two minutes and there were like 20-some lead changes. I don’t think the lead was any more than a possession that whole game and it was pretty much tooth and nail. It really wasn’t until the last two minutes of that game when we got that five-point lead – I don’t want to say it was on ice because it was never on ice at that point. We knew at the beginning of the game it would be possession-by-possession and I think these guys did a great job of being strong when they had to.”
On defending Jordan Jones
“We tried to focus on stopping her from the start of the game and she still got 13 threes off on us. She can really fill it up and shoot it. They ran some nice plays that Amanda has for them and they got us on a couple double-screens, she got open and to her credit, made them. She was the focus from the start.”
Michigan Senior Guard Courtney Boylan
On the final minutes of the game
“We went down by one point and then Carmen (Reynolds) hit that huge three to put us up by two points. We went down to the other end and got a big stop and then that’s when we came back and got the three-point play with 20 seconds left. It was a really good last few possessions for us.”