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The Gators celebrate hearing their name called during the NCAA Selection Show (photo: Matt Pendleton)

Monday March 12, 2012Women's Basketball Receives NCAA Tournament Berth, Plays Ohio State in First Round

Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators celebrate hearing their name called during the NCAA Selection Show (photo: Matt Pendleton)

The University of Florida received an at-large berth into the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament, where the Gators earned the No. 9 seed and will face eighth-seeded Ohio State (25-6) on Sunday, March 18 at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. Tip-off is set for 12:15 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN2.

 

The winner of that first round contest advances to the second round to play the winner of the game between top-seeded Baylor (34-0) and 16th-seeded UC Santa Barbara (17-15), which play 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Gator-Buckeye game. That second round contest will be held on March 20 at 7 p.m. ET.

 

This is the 13th time Florida (19-12) has earned a bid to compete in the NCAA Championship, with the most recent selection coming in 2009 when the Gators lost at overall No. 1-seed and eventual national champion Connecticut in the second round played in Storrs, Conn. Florida sports a 10-11 all-time record in NCAA play, with the best showing a Regional Final appearance in 1997.


Monday’s announcement placed Florida in a postseason tournament for the 18th time in the last 20 years, including all five seasons under head coach Amanda Butler, who became the first-ever Gator coach to guide the program to a postseason appearance in each of their first five years.

Florida’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship came against Bowling Green on Bowling Green’s campus in 1993 when Butler was in her junior year playing for the Gators.


Sunday will be the first-ever meeting between the Gators and Buckeyes in women’s hoops action. Florida is 1-3 all-time against Baylor and 1-2 versus UC Santa Barbara.


The official website of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship is http://www.ncaa.com/sports/basketball-women/d1

 

QUOTES:

Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler

On the scene at her house…

“Well it was fun and I think that when you play for this and chose to play at this level this is what you play for, a chance to prove yourself in the NCAA Tournament. This team has had that idea right there in the forefront of their mind all season long. Game one loss vs. Michigan all the way through the SEC Tournament and this is absolutely what they deserved. It’s just fun. There’s so many tense moments, so many disappointing moments, great moments, hard moments, a lot of hard work that goes in. For all of that, to be able to culminate in that sort of a celebration, I just think it’s really cool and I’m happy for our players.”

 

On the five seniors being able to go out in the NCAA Tournament

“This is what they wanted to do. They very courageously said at the beginning of the year this is who we are, we’re an NCAA Tournament team. We want to contend in our league. We want to have the best season that we’ve had as a group and that’s pretty much what they’ve done. I’m really excited for them to have a chance to play another day and play on this stage.”

 

On playing in Bowling Green where she had her first NCAA experience

“It’s neat. It’s really a neat thing. I think when things historically overlap like that it’s fun to talk about. I think more than anything it’s a great place where girls and women’s basketball is important. I think it will be a great crowd there and a real neat environment but we’re just excited to have a chance to play and we’ll make the most of it.”

 

On how it feels to be back in the NCAA field

“It’s great. Like I said it’s what you work for. For this team, especially with us being a veteran team, it’s been what we’ve talked about all year long how each win or each loss or each practice could potentially impact what our NCAA resume would look like if we needed to get an at-large bid and obviously we did. For our kids to have put in as much work as they have, and really this is the hardest working team I’ve had since I’ve been here, they’ve done so much extra, everything that their coaches have asked and then some, this is absolutely what they deserve and they earned it. I’m just happy for them. When things work out that way, as they should, you just have to know hard work pays off.”

 

On being one of the last four in and what got them in

“Obviously our big wins in conference, beating Georgia down the stretch, beating LSU twice, our performance at Vanderbilt, I’m sure that was probably viewed in a positive light, getting into the SEC Tournament and winning a game and really competing and being in position to beat Kentucky in that second round game, I think all of those things. When you look at the bigger picture and wider scale, I think just the consistency that our team played with. They played at a consistent high level all throughout January and February and I think that was certainly a factor. Then we played a tough nonconference schedule. Everybody looks at did you beat Florida State? How’d you do against Michigan or Rutgers? But you look at the field and you see a Hampton, who was their eventual conference champion, you see a Samford, who was their eventual conference champion and you see those teams who were in the top-50 and top-100 RPI our kids did what they needed to do in the nonconference schedule that certainly couldn’t be ignored either.”

 

On how the tough regular season schedule prepared them going forward

“That’s one of the things that we make our team aware of. ‘This is why we play this team, this is why we’re playing this schedule.’ Our strength of schedule ended up being 14th or 15th and at one point at the end of the year was eighth. I think it went down the last three or four ballgames but we were still in that top-15. We tell our team at the beginning of the year that we’re doing this on purpose, this isn’t just we have a bunch of games we happen to be playing against good teams, we have a purpose to prepare us first and foremost for the SEC season because we know how grueling and competitive that’s going to be and then give us a chance at an at-large opportunity if that’s what our fate is and most of the time, unless you have a really special season, that’s what you’re looking at. Certainly, it’s by design and our kids responded to that challenge all year long.”

 

On how big this berth is for the program going forward

“I hadn’t even thought of it like that yet. I think postseason play is an expectation for us. The young ladies we have coming in next year were recruited with that expectation and this team is living up to that expectation and that puts a little bit more pressure on them coming in knowing what they’re not just supposed to live up to but hopefully exceed. Every year you’re just trying to build but like I said I haven’t really thought about it in that context too much yet, we’re just excited to get to practice tomorrow, knowing who were playing and being in this field.”

 

On how preparation works

“We don’t do real well with taking it easy and we had a good break last week. It worked out well for our team to be able to have spring break coinciding with our conference tournament ending so they’ve had a chance to rest their legs. We’ve had a couple of good, intense, practices and we’ll just gradually prepare.  Instead of having a cram session we’ll just gradually ease into things and really just focus, first and foremost on their personnel and getting to know them because this is a team that we’re completely unfamiliar with, even our staff. Unless we just happen to catch them on TV in the Big Ten Tournament or throughout the year, I don't think I’ve watched more than three or four minutes of Ohio State all year long. So there’s a lot of work for the coaching staff to do immediately, but we’ll go hard. We probably won’t go for very long but we’ll try to be efficient with the team when they’re here.”

 

On what she saw in Ohio State

“They’ve got two of the best scoring guards in the country. I think everybody in the country knows Sammi Prahalis and we do too. We recruited Sammi really hard and she took an official visit down here with us so we’re very familiar with her and what she’s capable of. Tayler Hill is another young lady who can just put up big big numbers and they’ve kind of been the ones who have driven the bus for them all year long. Aside from that you know you’re going head-to-head with a legend in our game in Coach Jim Foster. He does a great job and will have his team ready with a great game plan for us and the things we’ve been able to do well and have shown on film, but there’s a lot to learn in the next 24 hours.”

 

On playing in Bowling Green, almost a true road game, and how playing in tough SEC venues helps prepare for that challenge…

“I think it’s great. I think it’s one of the huge advantages of our conference when you’re playing not just in front of a lot of people or playing in front of a lot of people who aren’t for you but in front a lot of people who aren’t for you and it has such great implications which every one of our SEC ballgames did. The pressure our team faced going into Knoxville on senior night and all the stories that were swirling around that. I think it’s great preparation for what we’re about to go into. I think that our team will be really confident about what we’ve done so far, even if it were a loss because we know we’ve been tested we know we’ve been in a lot of different battlefields and game situations that we’re likely to see against Ohio State and there probably won’t be too many friendlies around, but that’s ok.”

 

On how much a relief it was to see the team made the tournament

“It wasn’t a sigh of relief it was a giant explosion. I wish I could say I was cool enough and just sighed and thoughtfully collected myself but that did not happen. Everyone was elated and I think it was because we were so sure of ourselves. It wasn’t because we were shocked because there was so much build up, there was so much emotion, there’s been so much time and hard work and talk and planning and sacrifice by this team for that moment, to see their name up on the screen. They do deserve to be in there and it’s great when you get what you deserve because that doesn’t always happen. Things don’t always happen the way they should, but tonight they did.” 

 

 

 

Senior guard Jordan Jones

On excitement of earning a bid…

“Sitting around waiting I was talking to my friends, there’s a big difference between the top teams in the country who know they’re in and how they feel watching that show and the teams sitting around crossing their fingers. It was the longest thirty-minute wait of my life and I can't even describe when our name came up across the board, I just jumped up. People were crying, happy tears obviously. It’s indescribable.”

 

On what the bid means to Florida…

“It’s huge, especially as a senior. You want to go out on that note and people remembering you by getting the team back to the NCAA Tournament and with the recruiting class they have coming in next year, it's something for them to build off for sure.”

 

On the seniors making it the tournament…

“It’s huge. We were talking and we didn’t want to play in the NIT. We were not going to if that was the situation so just the opportunity to go out on the biggest stage with everyone watching you against a great team like Ohio State is definitely going to be fun.”

 

On being one of the last four teams in…

“I don’t really understand how they thing sometimes, honestly. I don’t care – last four in, first four in – we’re in and that’s all that matters at this point. I’m thankful we’re in and that’s all I have to say about that.”

 

On being a dangerous team with five seniors…

“If you’re filling out a bracket, I think a lot of people look for experience and then a good post game is something that can consistently carry you. With the way Jennifer George has been playing all season long and then Azania Stewart playing her best basketball late in the season here, I like our chances.”

 

On a lot of SEC teams making the NCAA Tournament…

“We had eight in the SEC and at least four teams we played in non-conference so we’re battle-tested. And like I said before, people are going to say, “You’re playing this team,” or “You’re playing that team,” – We play in the SEC. We play the best of the best so there’s definitely nothing to be scared of and it’s just an exciting time for us.”

 

On playing Ohio State…

“I didn’t care who were playing. Ohio State, I think, is a team a lot of us are familiar with, we know a few of their players and it’s a team I was recruited by so I’m familiar with the coaching staff and that area. You want to be anyone in any sport and Ohio State obviously has had a nice little rivalry with Florida and Florida has come out successful in a lot of that so we don't want to ruin that streak.”

 

On potentially facing Baylor…

“I’ve said I don’t care if we’re playing the Lakers, this is an exciting time for us and we’re not going to be scared of anyone and we’re not going to back down from anyone. We’re ready for any challenge and that starts with Ohio State.”

 

 

Senior guard Deana Allen

On the excitement of receiving an at-large bid…

“Just sitting there the whole time waiting to see our name pop up was nerve racking. Every time a couple names was shown my heart would beat faster and faster so when they finally showed us it took me a minute to actually show because I couldn’t believe it at first it was showing Florida on the bottom of the screen but it’s just exciting. This is a first time experience for me. Last year we missed it and for me, being my senior year, this is the only way to go out.”

 

On the mood of the team…

“Everybody was excited. We weren’t ready for our season to be over and we’re glad we have another shot to keep playing.”

 

On what the bid means to Florida…

“It means a lot. It shows that we have good spirits and we never lose faith even though things haven’t gone our way in previous years but it was still our goal to get to the tournament and we did it.”

 

On whether it’s a sense of relief or excitement…

“It’s a sense of relief because going into today it was kind of almost like fearing the unknown. We didn’t know if we were going to be in, where we were going to be, who we were going to playing so it’s a sense of relief know that we have answers to all those questions.”

 

On the Florida-Ohio State rivalry coming over to women’s basketball…

“We’re ready to get that started.”

 

On Ohio State…

“I’ve seen them play a couple times but haven’t really been following them. I wasn’t trying to keep up with them but now that have to be our focus.”

 

On mentality entering the tournament…

“I’m going to bring my same defensive mentality and just play Florida basketball. We’re a defensive minded team and we’re just going to bring what we do to that game no matter who it is.”

 

On being a dangerous team because of the five seniors…

“We all want to go out with a bang and we want to make a statement so we are going to be playing our hearts out every game.”

 

On the team’s mentality following the SEC Tournament…

“We know what feels like now to get sent home when we felt like it wasn’t our time to go home. There’s going to be even more of a sense of urgency, just keep getting after it game after game after game and we want to keep it there.”

 

On being one of the last four in…

“We don’t really care about the rankings or where they put us as long as we get in and we have to prove ourselves now.”

 

 

 

Sophomore guard Jaterra Bonds

On the mood of the team receiving the bid…

“It was exciting because we were all kind of nervous but I had faith. I was telling people who were asking me all week, “Ya’ll going to make it?” I’d say, “Yeah.” But then we got down to the last bracket and they hadn’t called our name yet and then everybody jumped up and dog piled. It was crazy.”

 

On what the bid means to Florida…

“This is a big stepping stone because last year I kind of feel like we underachieved by making it to the WNIT and then we lost. This is a big stepping stone for our team.”

 

On being one of the last four teams in…

“First four in, last four in, the middle section, as long as they put our name on that screen, I’m fine.”

 

On being a sophomore and making to the NCAA Tournament…

“I’m grateful to be here. We have five seniors and I know they’re hungry and just glad to be here and we just want to come out strong with a bang. I’m just happy to be a part of the team.”

 

On making some noise in the tournament…

“You have to do more. Making it is one thing but winning games is a totally different thing. Everybody wants to make it but if you want to make some noise and want people talk about you, you have to win some games in the tournament and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not just trying to make it, we’re trying to win games, also.”

 

 

 

Senior center Azania Stewart

On earning the tournament bid…

“It’s just really exciting. I was kind of getting a little bit nervous going through all the others sides of the brackets and regions. My heart was racing and I was sweating. I was just really excited to finally see our name up there”

 

On the seniors getting to play in the tournament…

“All the hard work has finally paid off. Fruits of your labor I guess after lots of hours spent in here, extra weight sessions, shooting and I feel like its paid off because I feel like during the season we hit some games like, “What is going on? Why is it falling for us?” So I think just overall for us as seniors, especially for me and Ndidi Madu going back to the tournament, is just really exciting for us.”

 

 

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