Thursday December 20, 2012Jennifer George Nets Fourth Straight Double-Double in Balanced Win vs. Savannah State, 88-38
January Miller was one of three Gators who recorded a career-high scoring effort.
Redshirt junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) and freshmen Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) and January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) each posted a career-high scoring night as five Gators contributed a double-figure scoring effort in Florida’s 88-38 win over Savannah State Thursday night to cap the first day of the Gator Holiday Classic at the O’Connell Center.
In addition to Svete’s and Miller’s 15 points and Mercer’s 14-point night, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Preseason Naismith Candidate and UF’s lone senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) added 14 points and 11 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double, the 23rd of her career. It was also George’s 50th double-figure scoring game of her Gator career.
Florida (9-3) has advanced to the Gator Holiday Classic championship game and plays host to Central Michigan (5-4) at 7 p.m. The Chippawas earned a hard-fought 98-84 first-round victory over St. Joseph’s (5-4), which will face Savannah State (5-7) on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
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 crowned. The Gators have advanced to the championship game every year.
“I think it was a really good win for us,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “Obviously, Savannah State struggled without their leading scorer in, but again I think our team took advantage of our opportunities really well. I hope for her sake that she’s ok. You hate to see anyone go down regardless of whose team they are on. But a lot of things to be proud of in this performance: only nine turnovers, Jennifer’s (George) consistency with delivering another double-double, and a whole host of career highs (Lily Svete, January Miller and Christin Mercer). That’s great to see.”
It wasn’t just a big night for Svete and company as UF got well-balanced contribution from a variety of sources. Not only was Florida shooting well from the field as a team, 35-of-74 (47%), but defensively, UF caused chaos towards Savannah State’s offense, as the Gators caused 21 turnovers which led to 20 points.
For Svete, it was her three-point game that ended up being the dagger for Savannah State. The Gator junior drained 5-of-10 from behind the arc. At one point in the second half, Svete sank three straight long balls as Florida poured it on and built led by as many as 57 points with just over three minutes to play.
The defensive effort went hand-in-hand with the balanced scoring, as it was the third time this season that five Gators had double-digit point totals.
“I think it’s one of those things that just makes us incredibly hard to prepare for and play against,” Butler said. “If you had said before the ballgame that we were going to win by 50 and Jaterra (Bonds) won’t score … Things like that are great evidence - like Jan (Miller) said - of how hard everyone is working and that we are continuing to improve day-by-day and week-by-week and that’s really important. We’ve got a lot of really threatening pieces; we’re not always the ‘Jennifer George Show,’ although sometimes that’s what we look like. That’s a great advantage for us to have a player like her (George) to go to, but we do have a great balance. I talked about our turnovers, but I think another significant part of the stat sheet is the 19 assisted baskets. I love that. It’s an indication of our chemistry, how much they’re looking for each other and finishing for each other, as well.”
The Gators got off to quite the start in the first 10 minutes of play with a 21-3 run to open things wide open. Strong defense along with timely rebounding allowed UF to get on the fast break and score in bunches. After solid inside play from Moss and George to take the early 4-1 lead, the Orange and Blue moved out beyond the arc and got two straight threes from Svete and Miller. For Miller it was her first made three-pointer of her career.
The scoring barrage continued from there as both Miller and Moss practically traded baskets between each other on the backs of the strong Gator defense to give Florida the 21-3 lead by the midway point in the first half. With 10 minutes still to go in the half, Florida was holding Savannah State to just 15 percent shooting from the field.
Tough defense remained the theme for the remainder of the frame as Florida caused 16 Savannah State turnovers and scored 13 points off those turnovers, but it was the performance from the bench players that really set the tone. 26 of Florida’s 37 first half points all came off the bench. Moss actually led all scorers at the half with 10 points off the bench, followed by Miller with nine points and Mercer with seven.
As for the starters, Svete and George contributed 10 points together with all six of Svete’s points coming from three-point land. The balanced scoring worked perfectly for UF heading into the locker room at half as it held a solid 37-13 lead.
The 13 points scored by Savannah State were the fifth fewest by a Florida opponent in a half in program history as the Tigers could only muster 5-of-20 (25%) from the field against the extremely quick Gator defense. Tiger junior Ezinne Kalu, the team’s leading scorer who entered the game averaging 14.6 points, left the court with an injury just 3:31 into the contest and was unable to return.
As the second half began, it was much like how the first half ended as Florida went right back to the same strategy that worked for them earlier. Nine straight points by the Gators were scored before Savannah State made its first bucket of the second half, a drought of almost five minutes.
The closest the Tigers ever got to the Gators for the rest of the night was a 24 point difference right at the 15:00 minute mark of the second half before UF ripped off 15 straight points to break the game open even more to a 59-20 lead with 11:45 to play.
From there, it was a matter of how high could the Gators go. The largest lead of 57 points was reached at the 3:07 mark of the second half after a fast-break layup by Moss. Savannah State did get the difference back into the 40’s, but a final free throw by junior Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.), who collected 10 rebounds with seven points, kept Florida right at the 50-point-lead mark at the final buzzer.
*UF advanced to the championship game of its home tournament every year of the event
*Gators won their 12th consecutive home game, including their 13th straight against non-conference opponents
*50-point win is the second-largest margin of victory for Florida under Coach Butler, behind the 57-point win vs. Alabama State (95-38) on Dec. 20, 2010
*UF’s sixth straight game using a different starting lineup
*UF allowed just 13 first half points, tied for the fifth-fewest by an opponent in program history and fewest points since Southern University scored 13 in the second half on Dec. 20, 2009 in the first round of the 2009 Gator Holiday Classic
*freshmen accounted for 27 of Florida’s 37 first-half points
*freshman Carlie Needles has converted at least one three-pointer in 11 of UF’s 12 games this year
*senior Jennifer George recorded her fourth consecutive double-double; the 23rd of her career
*George nets the 50th double-figure scoring game of her career
*junior Lily Svete set a career-high with 15 points (was 14 against Troy on Dec. 4, 2012), sinking a career-best five three-pointers
*freshman January Miller converted the first three-pointer of her career; seventh different Gator to sink one this year
*Miller set her career-high of 15 points (was 12 vs. Northern Iowa, Nov. 24, 2012); second double-figure scoring game of career
*freshman Christin Mercer set her career-high of 14 points (was 9 points, twice) for her first career double-figure scoring game
*junior Vicky McIntyre tied her Gator career-high of 10 rebounds
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler Quotes:
“I think it was a really good win for us. Obviously, Savannah State struggled without their leading scorer (Ezinne Kalu) in, but again I think our team took advantage of our opportunities really well. I hope for her sake that she’s ok. You hate to see anyone go down regardless of whose team they are on. But a lot of things to be proud of in this performance- only nine turnovers, Jennifer’s (George) consistency with delivering another double-double, and a whole host of career highs (Lily Svete, January Miller and Christin Mercer). That’s great to see.”
On the scoring balance the team had tonight…
“I think it’s one of those things that just makes us incredibly hard to prepare for and play against. If you had said before the ballgame that we were going to win by 50 and Jaterra (Bonds) won’t score … Things like that are great evidence - like Jan (Miller) said - of how hard everyone is working and that we are continuing to improve day-by-day and week-by-week and that’s really important. We’ve got a lot of really threatening pieces; we’re not always the ‘Jennifer George Show,’ although sometimes that’s what we look like. That’s a great advantage for us to have a player like her (George) to go to, but we do have a great balance. I talked about our turnovers, but I think another significant part of the stat sheet is the 19 assisted baskets. I love that. It’s an indication of our chemistry, how much they’re looking for each other and finishing for each other, as well.”
Florida Senior Jennifer George:
On her thoughts about the pre-game ceremony for her 1,000th point accomplishment…
“It meant a lot. Just to be doing it here at home in front of all the fans who have watched me my whole career here. It kind of got me a little emotional. It was really nice.”
Florida Redshirt-Junior Lily Svete:
On her career-high performance tonight…
“Coach has been talking to me all week about looking for my shot when I catch the ball and I did that and my teammates did a great job of finding me.”
Florida Freshman January Miller:
On her career-high performance tonight…
“It was a pretty good feeling. It also helps me realize that every time we’re in practice I’m working harder and it’s paying off little by little.”
Savannah State Head Coach Cedric W. Baker:
On today’s game…
“Coming into the game I knew that it would be defiantly a tough game. We would need all of our fast power. First we lost a few weapons, as Ezinne went down in the first few minutes of the game. Opportunity came for other kids to step up and get some playing time but of course once we adjusted at halftime and settled down we started to execute within our offense. Just want to take away from the game. When opportunity presents itself we need to take advantage of it.”
Preparing for tomorrow’s game…
“Definitely for tomorrow, get some rest. We are going to have to force some minutes because we are a little short. Our bench now has gotten a little shorter because of some injuries. Coming into tomorrow’s game the kids are prepared. They practice every day, we just have to regroup a little bit and of course chemistry is going to be important. We just want to slow it down and play Savannah Basketball and we will be ok.”
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