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The Gators play Ohio State on Sunday at 12:15 pm ET on ESPN2 (photo: Matt Pendleton)

Saturday March 17, 2012Florida Ready for NCAA First Round vs. Ohio State Sunday (12:15 pm, ESPN2)

Bowling Green, Ohio

The Gators play Ohio State on Sunday at 12:15 pm ET on ESPN2 (photo: Matt Pendleton)

Florida returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 and makes its 13th overall appearance in program history. The No. 9-seeded Gators (19-12) play No. 8-seeded Ohio State (26-6, 11-5 Big Ten) in the first round on Sunday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m. ET.

 

This is the first-ever meeting between Florida and Ohio State, which is ranked No. 16/18 in the national rankings.

 

The Gators have won six of their last 10 games, with each of the four setbacks on the road against nationally ranked opponents and three of those four by a combined total of 14 points.

 

Florida’s inclusion in the NCAA field is the program’s fifth consecutive postseason appearance - every year under head coach Amanda Butler. She is the only one of the eight head coaches who has done so. In fact, Butler was the first Gator head coach to earn a postseason berth in her first year with the program.

 

While Florida has made 12 previous trips to the NCAA Tournament, the current group of Gators is a bit lean on NCAA experience. Only seniors Ndidi Madu and Azania Stewart have played in an NCAA game. During their freshmen year both saw action in each of the Gator’s 2009 NCAA Tournament games.

 

Madu scored two points in eight minutes versus Temple in the first round and played five minutes and attempted one shot against eventual NCAA-champion Connecticut in the second round. Stewart saw 13 minutes of court time against Temple and did not attempt a shot, but did collect one offensive rebound. She converted both free throw attempts against UConn in six minutes of play for her first postseason points.

 

Ohio State is making its school-record 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, all coming under Jim Foster who spent the previous 11 years as Vanderbilt’s head coach.

 

The Buckeyes are led by a pair of 20-point scoring guards in senior Samantha Prahalis and junior Tayler Hill, who average 20.1 and 20.3 points per game, respectively. Prahalis was named the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year, while Hill was honored to the league’s first team and to the All-Defensive Team. Junior guard Amber Stokes, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, contributes 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game .

 

Madu and Stewart are two of five seniors on the Gators roster, joined by Deana Allen, Lanita Bartley and Jordan Jones.

 

As a team, Florida is holding opponents to 60.1 points per game - the second-fewest in a season in the 38-year history of the program. The 1983-84 squad held its foes to 59.1 points per game. Opponents are shooting 37.9 percent from the floor, the lowest since the 2000-01 Gators limited foes to a 36.9 percent clip.

 

Ohio State averages 75.1 points as the nation’s 11th-ranked offensive, while hitting 37.9 percent from the floor.

 

From beyond the arc, opponents are connecting on just 29.6 percent, the third-lowest accuracy mark from the three-point arc in program history and the lowest since the program-standard 25.8 percent set by the 1997-98 team. The 1987-88 club limited foes to a 27.7 percent mark in the inaugural year of the three-pointer.

 

The Buckeyes convert 35.9 percent (169-471) from long range, the nation’s 15th-best mark, with Hill nailing 41.6 percent (79-190) and Prahalis netting 35.2 percent (62-176), while dishing 6.4 assists per game.

 

Junior forward Jennifer George continues to lead UF in scoring (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg), an effort that also is second in the Southeastern Conference. She has posted 15 double-doubles this year - and 19 in her career. George also has a team-high 23 double-figure scoring games.

 

Jones has been doing a bit of everything for the Gators this year, contributing 11.6 points, in addition to 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals, while hitting 66-of-189 treys (34.9%). Jones has hit from long range in 14 straight games - the fourth double-figure streak of her career.

 

Bartley has stepped up her game during her second and final season wearing the Gator orange & blue. She’s Florida’s third-leading scorer (9.1 ppg) along with 5.1 rebounds (third most) and leads the club in assists (3.2 apg) and steals (1.9 pg). The 5-foot-6 Bartley also tied for UF’s second-leading rebounder (5.1 rpg) in SEC games.

 

Allen, who was honored as the 2012 SEC Co-6th Woman of the Year, has provided Florida with a definite spark off the bench in every game she’s played this year, averaging 7.6 points (fifth on team) and 4.8 rebounds (third on team), with 1.4 steals (second on the team). She hits 30.0 percent from the three-point arc (the third-highest on the team) and 72.1 percent from the free throw line (highest percentage).

 

Stewart has been a defensive fixture in the paint for Florida during her career, blocking 203 shots during her four-year career, with 2.2 per game this season. Madu is contributing 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds and is coming off a strong performance at the SEC Tournament, where she averaged 6.0 rebounds.

 

Florida is 3-1 all-time when playing in the state of Ohio, including a 2-0 record in postseason games. The Gators defeated Bowling Green on its home court on March 17, 1993 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. On March 15, 2000, Florida won at Dayton in the first round of the Postseason WNIT.

 

Butler was a junior on the Gator’s inaugural NCAA Tournament team that played Bowling Green in 1993.

 

 

Game Day Information

#9 Seed Florida Gators (19-12) vs. the #8 Seed / #16/18-Ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (25-6)

2012 NCAA Tournament * First Round

Sunday, March 18, 2012 * 12:15 pm ET

Stroh Center (4,347) - Bowling Green, Ohio

 

Bowling Green’s Official NCAA Tournament Website: http://bgsufalcons.com/sports/2012/3/2/GEN_0302121902.aspx

              *complete press conferences and more from all four teams at this tournament site

 

On Twitter, follow @GatorZoneScott for extended coverage of the team’s NCAA Tournament Experience

 

 

Game Coverage & More! 

Radio: LIVE on WBXY-FM 99.5 “The Star” with Adam Schick & Brittany Davis

Internet Audio: LIVE thru www.GatorZone.com (FREE)

Internet Video: LIVE on www.ESPN3.com

Television: LIVE on ESPN2 with Cara Capuano and Abby Waner

 

Opening Tip

*Florida is making its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance & first since 2009

*this is the first-ever meeting between Florida & Ohio State in women’s hoops

*10 of UF’s 12 losses this year have been by 6 points or less

*UF has played 54 games over the last three seasons decided by 10 points or less; 16 this year

*10 of UF’s 16 SEC regular-season games were decided by 6 points or fewer, with 11 of 16 being decided by single digits

*Jennifer George ranks No. 8 in the country in FG% (54.9%) and tied-No. 15 for double-doubles (15)

*Jordan Jones has converted a 3-pointer in 14 consecutive games

 

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