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Junior Jaterra Bonds is a two-time member of the Gator Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team.

Wednesday December 19, 2012Florida Hosts 22nd Annual Gator Holiday Classic, Dec. 20-21

Gainesville, Fla.

Junior Jaterra Bonds is a two-time member of the Gator Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team.

Florida plays host to the 22nd Annual Gator Holiday Classic on December 20 and 21, welcoming Central Michigan, Savannah State, and Saint Joseph’s to the O’Connell Center for the two-day event.

 

Central Michigan and Saint Joseph’s meet at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, before Florida plays Savannah State at 7 p.m.

 

“This year’s field is very competitive,” said UF head coach Amanda Butler, who has played and coached in the Gator Holiday Classic. “We start off with Savannah State and then there’s Central Michigan and Saint Joe’s, teams that our fans might not be as familiar with but are very, very good.”

 

Florida is coming off a 74-50 win at La Salle, marking the team’s first true road win in its third attempt. The victory also was the Gator’s third consecutive, their longest winning streak of the season.

 

“Consistency is something we’re still searching for and that search may continue for a while because that’s part of our process as we continue to mature and grow,” Butler said. “We’ve had a lot of great play in spots, but we’re still a little bit shy of playing 40 minutes of great basketball. Overall, we’ve had some great individual performances.”

 

Savannah State’s last game prior to the GHC was on Tuesday, Dec. 18, when the team defeated Alabama State, 60-48.

 

Central Michigan most recently defeated Robert Morris, 96-56, on Monday, Dec. 17.

 

Saint Joseph’s had the longest rest prior to the start of the Gator Holiday Classic, last seeing action on Sat., Dec. 8 when the Hawks dropped a 55-51 decision to Villanova - 12 days ago.

 

 

VIDEO: Coach Butler previews the Gator Holiday Classic:

http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?db_oem_id=6500&id=1148810&catid=9615

 

 

The Gators are the fourth different team from the SEC on the Tiger’s schedule this season, having already played at South Carolina (L, 78-47), at Georgia (L, 94-57) and at Mississippi State (L, 70-55).

 

Florida’s annual home tournament has traditionally featured some of the nation’s finest teams and players. At least one team from the four-team field has earned an NCAA Tournament berth in 15 of the 21 years, including the 1994 field that featured all four future NCAA selections.

 

“This is a tournament that we always get excited about,” Butler said. “It has a lot of great tradition and there’s been a lot of great basketball played over many, many years.”

 

Florida has won 17 of the previous 21 Gator Classic titles (the 2005 event featured only three teams and played a round-robin style tournament so no champion was declared) and has advanced to the championship game every year.

 

Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) has been voted the GHC All-Tournament each of the last two years, while senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) earned MVP honors last season.

 

Coach Butler has played in the Gator Classic, worked as an assistant coach for two different teams in the Gator Classic and has guided Florida to the 2007 & 2008 titles as a head coach. Butler was a freshman when the tournament debuted in December of 1990, and led the Gators win the first four titles that culminated in her selection to the 1993 All-Tournament her senior year

 

The Gators enter their Dec. 20th game against Savannah State and the annual Gator Holiday Classic riding an 11-game home winning streak, including a 12-game run against non-conference teams. The overall run is the fifth-longest in UF history, while the streak versus non-SEC schools is the sixth-longest streak of its kind in program history.

 

A Preseason Naismith Player of the Year candidate, George has scored in double-figures in nine of UF’s last 10 games, including each of the last seven outings. George also has a double-double in each of UF’s last three games, most recently a 19-point, 11-rebound effort for her 22nd career double-double. George leads the Gators in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (8.9).

 

Three other Gators are averaging a double-figure scoring effort, with Bonds contributing 10.5 points, redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) adding 10.3 points and freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) tallying 10.2 points per game.

 

Bonds, the only returning player that boasted experience in the backcourt for the Gators this year, leads the team in trips to the free throw line (51), where she converts 76.5 percent of her attempts. In UF’s win against Pacific (Dec. 7), Bonds scored a game-high 20 points, hitting 12-of-15 free throws, an effort that tied for the fourth-most made free throws in a game in program history.

 

Needles has converted 25-of-55 for an average of 45.5 percent from long range during UF’s last eight games - including the record-setting 9-of-17 performance against North Florida on Nov. 23.

 

Overall this season, Moss leads Florida in assists (4.3 apg), while ranking second for rebounding (6.2 rpg), third for steals (1.7) and fourth for scoring (10.2) and has flirted with a triple-double three times.

 

“It’s been nice to see our freshmen pick up something new and start to improve in the direction we want to see them go,” Butler said.

 

Florida (8-3) hosts Savannah State (5-6)

Thu., Dec. 20, 2012 * 7 p.m. ET

Stephen C. O’Connell Center (11,373)

Gainesville, Fla.

22nd Annual Gator Holiday Classic

Game 1: 4:30 p.m.: Central Michigan (4-4) vs. Saint Joseph’s (5-3)

 

FLORIDA GAME NOTES (PDF)

SAVANNAH STATE GAME NOTES

CENTRAL MICHIGAN GAME NOTES

SAINT JOSEPH’S GAME NOTES

 

LIVE GAME SCORING for Central Michigan vs. Saint Joseph’s

 

Game Coverage & More!

Radio: LIVE on The Star 99.5 FM (WBXY) in Gainesville with Adam Schick & Brittany Davis

Internet Audio: LIVE thru www.Gatorzone.com (FREE) – for Gator games

Internet Scoring: LIVE thru www.Gatorzone.com (FREE) – for Gator games

Internet Video: LIVE on www.Gatorvision.tv (subscription) – for Thursday’s Gator game

O’Connell Center Press Row: 352-367-1801

Tickets: $5 for reserved seats; $4 adult general admission; $2 for youth age 17 and under; FREE for UF and Santa Fe students

Parking: FREE in the O’Connell Center lot

 

Opening Tip

*Florida hosts the 22nd Annual Gator Holiday Classic

*UF has won its home tournament 17 times

*UF has used five different starting lineups this season, including a different one in each of the last five games

*the Gators have won 11 consecutive home games, including its last 12 versus non-conference opponents

*Over the last three+ years, UF has played 58 games decided by 10 points or less (2-1 this year)

*In six of UF’s 11 games this year, every Gator who suited up to play, scored

*Jennifer George has posted three consecutive double-doubles ... has 49 career double-figure scoring games, including 9 this year

 

 

Additional Hoopla for Thursday’s Game

Gator Holiday Classic T-shirt Giveaway: The first 500 fans will receive a FREE 2012 Gator Holiday Classic t-shirt!

 

High School Days: High School coaches from surrounding counties are invited to attend the Gator Holiday Classic for FREE! Coaches, players and one family member will be sent letters and compliance forms if they’d like to participate.

 

 

For all of the latest information on Florida women’s basketball:

Official Website: www.gatorzone.com/basketball/women

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FloridaWomensBasketball

Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK  and  @CoachButlerUF 

 

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