Thursday February 23, 2012Women's Basketball Routs Mississippi State in Home Finale, 79-45
The Gator's five seniors led the team in their final home game.
The University of Florida women’s basketball team used another balanced offensive attack and a strong defensive effort in a 79-45 rout of Mississippi State Thursday evening in the Gator’s final regular-season home game.
All 10 Gators who dressed out for the game scored en route to earning their largest margin of victory this year and posting their sixth consecutive home win. It was the sixth time this year every eligible Gator contributed offensively.
With the victory, Florida (18-10) ensured no worse than a .500 record in Southeastern Conference action, as the team takes its 8-7 league mark to Knoxville on Sunday and plays No. 10/9 Tennessee in the final regular-season game for both teams. Tip-off from Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPNU. The Lady Vols (20-8, 11-4 SEC) were upset on Thursday by Arkansas, 72-71 in overtime.
“It was a really big win for us. It was really important for a lot of reasons,” Head Coach Amanda Butler said. “Most importantly for our team tonight was to finish in great fashion on our home court for our group of seniors. With our win over Georgia on Sunday, we needed to come in, show a lot of maturity and poise going forward with this game, the next and the SEC Tournament ahead.”
Senior Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) led Florida in scoring with 18 points, as she tied her Gator career-high with six three-pointers on 12 attempts. Senior Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) and junior Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) added to Florida’s compelling victory, scoring 13 and 12 points respectively. Stewart also pulled down 11 rebounds to record her second double-double of the season, while George corralled eight and helped the Gators win the rebounding battle, 51-29. Senior Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) pulled down eight boards to accompany six points.
As a team, the Gators shot 43.3 percent from the field while holding Mississippi State to 30.9 percent, including 27.6 percent in the first half when the Bulldogs managed just 18 points, the second-fewest by a Gator opponent in the first half this season.
With 2:08 remaining in the second half, all five seniors checked into the game one final time, as they played out their last home appearance together. The Gator quintet contributed greatly in the win, combining for 47 points and 29 rebounds.
Joining Jones, Stewart and Madu were seniors Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Deana Allen (Houma, La.), as Bartley led the Gators with five assists and Allen chipped in seven points with three assists and a pair of rebounds.
Florida began the game with an 11-0 run and never looked back, as the Bulldogs couldn’t find the bottom of the net until Kendra Grant hit a three at the 14:54 mark.
The Gators scored three consecutive three-pointers in their 11-0 run to start the game. Two of those baskets came from Jones and the other triple was from sophomore Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.), who finished with nine points and three assists.
The Gators saw their largest lead of the first half at the 6:15 mark when Stewart’s layup put them ahead, 25-9, en route to a 33-18 halftime advantage.
Florida continued to build on its lead in the opening minutes of the second half, when George sank a layup and Jones tacked on a trey. From there, the Gators ran away with the game seeing their largest lead at 36 with 16 seconds left to play in the game.
Porsha Porter was the only Bulldog in double-figure scoring, as she led MSU (14-14, 4-11 SEC) with 17 points.
*The Gators improve to 8-7 in the SEC and clinch at least a .500 record in conference play for the first time since the 2008-09 season when UF went 9-7 in league play and advance to the NCAA Tournament’s second round
*After pouring in 12 points against Mississippi State, Jennifer George now owns a team-leading 20 double-figure scoring games this year
*Mississippi State’s 18 first half points are the second fewest allowed by UF in the first half all season. UF held Alabama to 17 first-half points on Jan. 19
*With 0:14 left in the second half, the Gators took a 36-point lead (79-43), their largest against any SEC opponent this season
*For the sixth time this season, every Gator that dressed for the game scored
*Jordan Jones tied her Gator career-high with six three-pointers. She also had six against La Salle on November 25, 2011
*Azania Stewart posted her second double-double of the season and seventh of her career with 13 points and 11 rebounds
*Andrea Vilaró Aragonés grabbed a career-high five rebounds
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler
“It was a really big win for us. It was really important for a lot of reasons. Most importantly for our team tonight was to finish in great fashion on our home court for our group of seniors. With our win over Georgia on Sunday, we needed to come in, show a lot of maturity and poise going forward with this game, the next and the SEC tournament ahead.
“This is how we like to win. We shot the ball well from the free throw line, won the rebounding line convincingly, had more assists then turnovers – this is the type of game that we like to have, the type of box score that we like to see.”
On the style of the team:
“The way we battle is our biggest attribute. There are a lot of different ways throughout the season that we have been able to win ball games, but that has always been a defining characteristic of our team no matter what game we play, how we battle and fight from start to finish.”
On having 51 rebounds:
“That goes hand in hand with how hard we play. It’s an amazing number. Azania Stewart stepped up and had 11 rebounds. I think it’s a demonstration of how hard we are playing. You love when you can see the reward. I think that’s a statistical manifestation of how hard we play.”
On Mississippi State’s Head Coach Fanning-Otis:
“Coach Fanning is an SEC great – she has impacted so many of us that have either competed against here or with her. We owe her a giant dept of gratitude for the coach, person and example that she is both on and off the court. She has done so much for the sport.”
On whether the Gators deserve a bid to the NCAA Tournament:
“I think this team is very deserving. We have had a February that puts us at an at-large selection that we have a great opportunity to be there. We still have games to play and that’s what we have to focus on. I think this team deserves it – there is not a doubt in my mind. We need to go to Knoxville on Sunday first and take care of that, play, and then go to SECs and play hard.”
Redshirt Senior Jordan Jones
On hitting her three’s tonight:
“If I had to pick a time for my shot to start hitting just right, it would obviously be now. Everyone is spending more time in the gym, more time than any since I have been here – it’s a credit to that. It’s a good time for my shot to start falling.”
On hitting her final three of the game:
“I knew Lanita (Bartley) was going to pass it- she always shoots it over to me on fast breaks. You couldn’t script the end any better for our team, for these seniors.”
On playing with all the seniors one last time:
“It makes it that much more special just because of how close we all are. We love each other and that makes it that much more special. That probably attributes to how we play and put everything out on the floor.”
On whether or not the team is prepared for NCAAs:
“There is still work and still work to do. It is work that we need to do heading into the SEC tournament and then hopefully the NCAA tournament. I would say that we have what it takes to make it to the tournament. If I was on another team I wouldn’t want to play Florida.”
Senior Center Azania Stewart
On hitting a double-double:
“It is just great, very exciting - especially with it being my last game here at home. To play here for the last time has been great – the game and the past four years have been a great time for me.
“For anything, tonight, it was really trying to help Jennifer George tonight; she’s been playing so well. It’s been the best four years for me here at the University of Florida and under Coach Butler – now it is time for SEC basketball.”
On playing with the seniors one last time:
“It was fun, exciting. It was great playing with everybody and passing the ball. We have worked so hard. In reality, it was kind of sad.”
Mississippi State Head Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis
“From our standpoint, it’s not the effort that you have to win any game in the SEC. From Florida’s standpoint, it’s a team that is trying to make its way into the tournament. Those kids are playing pretty hard.
“You have a couple of teams with some younger players and then Florida with a couple of redshirt seniors. They have experience; they understand what it takes to win. I give credit to Florida, their staff and how they played tonight. I compliment what the Gators have done.
“I hope that we can get as many SEC teams as we can into the tournament. You have to have a punch right now, you have to play hard, it takes forty minutes of playing in this league – you can’t let down.
“You have to be positive – make easy passes and take easy shots. Florida makes an extra pass, they go high-low, and so they are more patient on their offense.
“If I look at great games that I have seen through the years, they are going to be shooting and taking more than their opponent. It is the little stats that you have to come up with. Hopefully we can finish this last regular season game as good as possible and see where it goes from there.”