Thursday January 19, 2012Gators Use Tough Defense to Drop Alabama, 61-37
Jennifer George scored 15 points with 12 rebounds and five blocks in the win.
The Gator women’s basketball team used stifling defense, which held Alabama to 24.6 percent shooting from the field, and a monster performance from junior Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) to down the Crimson Tide, 61-37, Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Orange and Blue defense was the difference maker in the game as UF held Alabama (10-10, 0-6 SEC) to 25 percent shooting in the first half and 24.2 percent shooting in the second half. Additionally, the Gators forced 18 turnovers which led to 22 points. The offense was also efficient on the evening as the Gators recorded 19 assists on their 25 made field goals.
George led the way for the Gators with an impressive 15-point, 12-rebound, five-block performance, tallying her 11th double-double of the year and 15th of her career. George, who hit 5-of-6 shots in the second half and 7-of-16 for the game, wasn’t alone in her strong individual performance, as five additional Gators scored seven or more points led by senior Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England), who chipped in eight points, 10 boards and four blocked shots, and senior Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.), who had seven points, a career-high-tying seven rebounds and five assists. Senior Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) dished a season-high seven assists while collecting a game-high five steals.
“I’m really proud of the maturity I think we displayed tonight for a lot of different reasons,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “The talk and the questions we kept getting were about how do you play against Alabama after such a big win versus LSU – I think we really showed our senior leadership, in particular, and just our composure from game to game. We had great execution of the game plan.”
The Gators missed their first nine shots and began the game hitting just 12.5% (2-16) from the floor during the opening 7:39 minutes, yet trailed only 7-6 with 12:33 on the clock, as the Tide didn’t connect any easier, converting 20 percent on 3-of-15
Stewart sank her second shot in as many tries as one of the few Gators who were sharp from the get-go, connecting on a jumper inside that gave Florida a 8-7 lead with 12:21 on the clock.
Krya Crosby, who was equally as sharp for her team and finished with a Tide-best 14 points, tallied her third field goal in as many attempts and put Alabama back on top, before Jasmine Robinson followed with a jumper that had the Tide up three, 11-8, with 11:13 on the clock.
On Florida’s next offensive possession, Jordan Jones nailed a 25-foot three-pointer as the shot clock expired and tied the game at 11 with 10:39 remaining.
The Gators forced a stop and Deana Allen added a 12-footer before Bartley collected a steal off the Tide in-bounds play. Bartley passed to Allen, who found Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) on the wing where she knocked down her 15th three-pointer of the season that gave Florida a 16-11 lead with 9:18 to go.
Florida continued its defensive pressure and Barley came up with another steal, which she took the length of the court for a layup and an 18-11 Gator advantage.
Bartley again came away with another steal, but the Gators couldn’t capitalize. Alabama missed an inside jumper and George collected the miss, but again Florida came away empty, committing its third turnover of the contest.
Florida held firm defensively and limited the Tide to one shot attempt on their next possession. The Gators also missed their try and Alabama game away with a layup from Meghan Perkins, who ended Florida’s 10-0 run.
Florida continued its scoring spurt with one free throw from George and an long jumper from Jones, who tacked on another running jumper and extended the march to 15-2 over a 4:24 span, as Florida took a 23-13 lead with 6:15 remaining.
After a Florida forced a shot clock violation, Jones collected an offensive rebound and Bonds sank a driving layup as the Gator’s shot clock expired and continued the run, 25-13
Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) came off the bench and added a three-pointer from the top of the arc and Florida kept the momentum.
Deana Allen (Houma, La.) added to the long-range barrage by connecting from beyond the arc with 3:50 remaining that gave Florida a 31-13 lead and forced Alabama to call a timeout, as the Tide tried to find a way to stop the Gator’s 23-2 run that spread over a 6:49 span.
Celiscia Farmer ended the long march after Jessica Merritt collected a long defensive rebound and dished off to Farmer, who converted the layup at the 2:37 mark, as Florida held a 31-15 lead.
George, who finished the first half with five points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, came back with her second field goal of the contest for her fifth point, before Alabama came right back with a bucket inside with 47 seconds remaining to end the first half scoring with the Gators taking a 33-17 lead.
Florida recovered to sink 31 percent (13-42) of its shots and held a 28-27 rebounding edge after the first 20 minutes. The Gators turned the ball over just four times and forced 12 Alabama turnovers that they converted into 16 points.
The Gators (13-6, 3-3 SEC) didn’t let up to begin the second half as they scored six of the first eight points, pushing their lead to 20 and forcing Alabama into another timeout. From there, the Gators used hot shooting, connecting on 12-of-21 shots in the second half to cruise to the victory. George and Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) were keys to the second-half performance, scoring 18 of UF’s 28 points on a combined 9-of-11 shooting.
The Gators next embark on a three-game road trip, beginning on Sunday, January, 22 when they travel to Lexington for a rematch against No. 6 Kentucky (17-2, 6-0 SEC). Tip-off inside Memorial Coliseum is set for 2 p.m. and will be televised live on the 48-station SEC Network, which airs on WOGX FOX on Cox Cable in Gainesville. Live streaming video will be available through www.ESPN3.com and will not be subject to blackout in any area. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5 The Star, as well as through the internet at www.GatorZone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators.
The Wildcats, who are the only undefeated team in SEC action, edged the Gators, 59-56, on January 1st in Gainesville in the conference opener for both teams.
· UF recorded a 24-point victory against the Crimson Tide; prior to tonight each of its first five SEC games had been decided by six points or less
· Azania Stewart has blocked a shot in 18 consecutive games; she had four tonight, bringing her career total to 179
· Jennifer George had her 11th double-double of the season and 15th of her career
· Jennifer George blocked five shots, moving her into seventh place all-time at UF with 113
· Nine of the 10 different Gators scored during the game
· UF held Alabama to 17 points and 25 percent shooting (8-32) in the first half both are the fewest for a UF opponent this year
· The 17 points were the fewest in a first half by a UF opponent since the Gators held Auburn to 15 on Jan. 7, 2010
· The Gator bench outscored Alabama’s, 16-5
· Jordan Jones grabbed seven rebounds, tying a career and season-high
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler
“I’m really proud of the maturity I think we displayed tonight for a lot of different reasons, obviously. The talk and the questions we kept getting were about how do you play against Alabama after such a big win versus LSU – I think we really showed our senior leadership, in particular, and just our composure from game to game. We had great execution of the game plan.”
On what changed from Georgia to now…
“I think a lot of the things we were falling short on offensively, first and foremost, were turnovers. At the LSU game we only had nine in the first half and in this ball game we only had four, which was great for us. I think we have been valuing each possession more, and paying more attention to our offense in practice and taking a little bit of time away from our defense. But, that’s a tough balance because we don’t want that defense to slip. We’re seeing an intensity and an awareness, especially from our older players, of how important each and every moment of practice is, and how important each and every moment of individual workouts are. “That’s translating into their play – plain and simple.”
On three game road trip…
“We don’t look at things in segments like that as much. We just look at it as we’re going to Kentucky next. Momentum is great if you apply it; it’s like the game plan. We have to use this momentum that we’ve generated as we go into practice tomorrow.”
UF senior center Azania Stewart
On rebounding and scoring effort…
“Just being focused. I missed shoot around today, so I knew I had to be extra focused and do the little things that I always bring to the team.”
On confidence moving forward…
“It’s great confidence. Just for team in general; we’re building and we’re on a run right now. Kentucky is the best team in the league, I think overall that’s so exciting for our team. We will prepare well.”
UF junior forward Jennifer George
On post play of you and Azania…
“I think it’s pretty hard to guard both of us when we’re both on our strides.”
Alabama Head Coach Wendall Hudson
On Florida’s defense…
“I thought that Florida played really hard tonight. They took ownership of the game.”
On Alabama’s shooting game…
“We weren’t making shots that we make in practice. Some of those shots were not very good shots, and I would agree with that. But really, and truly, there were some shots where you just couldn’t get a better look. That’s just the way basketball is played – you have to be able to make those shots – even the tough ones.
On facing Tennessee next…
“We’re looking for a great battle there. We’ll be ready to play, and a little bit better. I think our practices will be a little better heading into Tennessee, a little more livelier.”
On the overall result of the game…
“In the first half, the shot clock was a factor for us and the way we played. I also thought that we had 12 turnovers going into the half, and we only had six or seven in the second half. We didn’t make some shots, and we weren’t shooting well. I thought Florida did play well and we didn’t really do that.”
Scores of Other SEC Games Played Thursday:
Kentucky d. GEORGIA, 69-64
TENNESSEE d. LSU, 65-56
AUBURN d. South Carolina, 53-49
Mississippi State d. OLE MISS, 51-46
ARKANSAS d. Vanderbilt, 69-47