Friday November 30, 2012Gators Continue Road Trip Saturday at Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.
Florida is making its third road trip of the season, now traveling 872-miles to play Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Dec. 1st with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
The game, which is the Gator’s fourth-consecutive outing away from Gainesville, will be the team’s second true away game this year.
The Gators and Wolverines meet for the second consecutive year, with Michigan spoiling Florida’s season-opener, 69-66, in the O’Connell Center in the first meeting in the series.
The Gators (5-2) are coming off a tough 74-58 loss to Arizona State in the championship game of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas on Sun., Nov. 25. In that game, the Sun Devils shot a blistering and UF-opponent season-best 58.2 percent from the floor, while Florida managed to shoot just 30.6 percent, including a season-low 25 percent in the first half en route to a season-low scoring total.
“We’ve focused a ton on defense since the trip,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “It’s hard to overlook when you’re last game was a loss. Anything that happened in that game is going to standout and hang over you. Defense has been the majority of our focus during practice. We’ve tried to correct the things that went wrong and emphasize what needs to be different. We didn’t play our game.”
Michigan (5-2) dropped a 71-54 home decision to fourth-ranked Duke on Wed., Nov. 28 as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Four of the Wolverine’s five wins this season have come at the Crisler Center.
The Wolverines were within three points of Duke at halftime, but the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half en rout to handing Michigan its first home loss of the season. Jenny Ryan led U-M with 18 points, hitting 7-of-10 from the floor overall, including both attempts from long range. Kate Thompson, who averages 14.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, while shooting 11-of-20 three-pointers, also tallied a double-figure scoring effort with 10 points, nailing three treys. Senior forward Nya Jordan got her first start of the year, replacing sophomore guard Brenea Harris in the lineup, and contributed eight points with four rebounds versus Duke. Harris had started the first six games of the season.
Senior forward Rachel Sheffer leads the Wolverines with 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 51.5 percent from the floor. She also has stepped outside a few times and has knocked down 7-of-16 three-pointers.
“Michigan is very good,” Butler shared. “We have a little bit of familiarity with them from playing them in the first game last season. They have a lot of upperclassmen. Sheffer is one of the most complete post players in the country. She can score any way that you want her to score – shoot the three, score on the low block. She has great footwork and strong hands. They have a great floor general in Ryan and she plays hard all the time. She can make plays on her own but knows how to find her teammates. Michigan is tough to guard because they can score in a lot of different ways. They are a really good three-point shooting team (averaging 41.4 percent, 46-112) and we’ll be playing them in their gym. There are a lot of challenges that we’ll have to be ready to meet.”
After beginning her career 3-of-12 from the three-point arc over the first three games, redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles has converted 16-of-35 for an average of 45.7 percent from long range during UF’s last four games - including the record-setting 9-of-17 performance against North Florida on Nov. 23. Needles is averaging 10.3 points with 2.0 rebounds overall.
“I thought Carlie was really solid,” Butler said about Needles’ performance when she was named to the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. “I really was pleased with her defense. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but her effort never waivered. She was attacking at every opportunity she had. Sometimes when you get those awards they tend to be based on what you did offensively, but I was really proud of Carlie’s defensive minutes.”
Preseason Naismith Player of the Year candidate Jennifer George has scored in double-figures in five of UF’s last six games, including each of the last three outings. George leads the Gators in scoring (13.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg).
Junior guard Jaterra Bonds contributes 10.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, while freshman Sydney Moss tallies 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds with team-highs of 4.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Entering the season, only three current players had suited up with the Gators for an away game in the last two years, with senior Jennifer George joining juniors Lily Svete and Jaterra Bonds with recent experience playing in hostile arenas. Redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis had not played a road game since Jan. 23, 2011 at LSU, as she missed the final 19 games of her freshman year while the three games she played last season prior to redshirting were at home.
Florida is the fifth-least experienced team in the country according to research done by UCI’s Mike Laninga.
“I saw a lot of fight, a lot of guts, a lot of intangibles that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Butler of the positives she saw from the Gators during the tournament in Las Vegas. “There was a lot of toughness, with the exception of that last game.”
Florida (5-2) vs. Michigan (5-2)
Sat., Dec. 1, 2012 * 2 p.m. ET
Crisler Center (12,693) * Ann Arbor, Mich.
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*The Gators are making just their second-ever trip to the state of Michigan, where they earned a 76-72 win at Oakland on Dec. 9, 2003
*Saturday’s game will be Florida’s fourth consecutive away from Gainesville and fifth road game this year
*UF has played 56 games over the last three+ years in games decided by 10 points or less (1-0 this year)
*In five of UF’s seven games this year, every Gator who suited up to play scored
*UF is coming off a seven-day span when it played four games and compiled a 3-1 record
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