Friday December 21, 2012Lewis' Career-Night Helps Florida win Gator Holiday Classic; Moss Named MVP
Gator Holiday Classic champions!
Redshirt sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) scored a career-high 18 points and guided Florida to an 81-75 victory over Central Michigan in the championship game of the Gator Holiday Classic on Friday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center
Freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after helping Florida withstand an intense late rally by the Chippewas, who whittled the Gator’s 17-point lead with 5:50 remaining down to six with 2:06 on the clock.
With Florida (10-3) clinging to a 76-70 lead, senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.), who was named to the All-Tournament Team, converted a tough inside bucket. CMU missed on its next possession, but the Gators turned the ball over and that same sequence happened on the next trip down the court, as the Gators committed three turnovers in a 54-second span with Jalisa Olive finally able to make UF pay as she converted layup and had CMU within six points, 78-72, with 27 seconds remaining.
The Chippewas (5-5) then fouled redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.), who converted 3-of-4 free throws over the next 13 seconds and gave Florida an 81-72 lead with 10 seconds left.
CMU’s Jessica Green knocked down a three-pointer with four seconds remaining to cap the game’s scoring, as Florida captured its third consecutive Gator Holiday Classic title, as well as its 18th in the 21 times the event has crowned a team champion.
“We didn’t want anyone to leave before the trophy presentation, so we decided to make it really interesting down the stretch and I think we did a good job of that,” UF head coach Amanda Butler joked. “Seriously, we beat a very good team. I’m proud of that, no question. Sometimes our wins aren’t as pretty as we hoped they’d be. This one had its spots and its moments, but it had its ugly spots also. I think for this team, sometimes learning hard lessons will be the most valuable way for us to grow. It is definitely a process and a journey. Like I said, we beat a good team and we want to play good teams. We want to be challenged and we were challenged tonight and came out with a win and that’s what’s most important.”
Lewis collected a double-double for the second time this season and in her career, pulling down 10 boards to go along with her 18 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the floor.
“Yesterday, I didn’t think I played bad, things just didn’t go my way,” shared Lewis, who scored just two points with three rebounds during Thursday’s game. “Today was just suited for who I am. I’m a slippery player and I just got inside the seams where I could. When you have good players like Jennifer George down low and penetrators like Sydney and me, it’s easy to get shots off. Rebounding tonight, my goal was to get four offensive rebounds, which I did.”
Moss scored 16 points in Friday’s championship game after netting a game-high 17 points on Thursday.
Coming out of the half, Lewis collected back-to-back buckets with a layup coming off an inbound play, and a corner jumper to extend the Gator lead, 40-28.
CMU’s Jessica Green and Crystal Bradford combined for six points at the 15:06 mark to cut the Gator lead to nine. Needles answered with a jumper in the lane, but Central Michigan was able to enhance their pressure in the backcourt on the Gators and force turnovers.
Jessica Schroll, who finished with 15 points on the night and a spot on the All-Tournament Team, laid in a shot to cut the Florida lead to seven, 46-39. With an intense period of scrappy play, Bradford, who tallied 10 points for Central Michigan, nailed a three to draw the Chippewas within striking distance of the Gators.
After the Gators found their way to the free throw line for the first time in the game at the 13:14 mark, CMU’s Taylor Johnson, who ended the night with 11 points, converted on a layup to cut the lead to the smallest it had been all evening, 49-46.
Florida fired back with an eight-point run thanks to two lay-ins by George, another trey from redshirt junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) and a free throw from Moss.
Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) was having a solid game until she was whistled for two offensive fouls and earned a technical foul in a three-second span, and with 7:59 remaining fouled out of the game for the first time in her collegiate career. Bonds went to the bench with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting with eight assists and five rebounds.
The momentum easily could have shifted in Central Michigan’s favor with Florida’s floor general unable to return to action. The Chippewas, however, were only able to convert on 1-of-3 free throws on the Bonds’ foul calls and Florida held a 59-51 lead.
That’s when Moss stepped up her game, scoring seven points in a 2:09 span.
Needles came up with a steal and Moss launched a desperation three-pointer which found the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired. Moss then drove and finished in the lane and Lewis connected on another inbounds play to put the Florida lead at 68-53 with 6:14 remaining.
Free throws also came into play in the closing 6:18 of the contest and Florida stepped up and converted 9-of-12, with makes from Moss, George, Needles and January Miller (Orlando, Fla.).
The Chippewas managed to give the Gators a scare in the final three minutes as they went on a 12-6 run, getting a pair of layups and three-pointers from Green, who finished with 12 points.
Florida shot a season-best 55.4 percent (31-56) from the floor during the game, including a 6-of-15 effort from the three-point arc and 13-of-19 showing from the free throw line. The Gators also held a 39-32 rebound edge, but committed a season-high 29 turnover that the led to 25 points.
Central Michigan shot 40.3 percent overall, including a 48.6 percent mark (17-35) during the second half when it outscored Florida, 50-45, in spite of the Gator hitting 57.7 percent in the final 20 minutes.
The Gators and the Chippewas got off to a sloppy start as play began where turnovers were costly for both teams in the first two minutes. Central Michigan struck first, by not only winning the tip, but also converting for two with a Green layup. George scored first for the Gators by hitting a layup at the 18:20 mark. Svete came out firing as she hit a three to put Florida out front of Central Michigan, 7-4.
Florida led 11-6 into the first media timeout with a pair of Lewis layups. Bonds had back-to-back buckets with a floater and her first three-pointer of the night which put the Gators up 16-9 at the 12:15 mark.
A Moss turnover resulted in a Johnson trey for Central Michigan which put the Chippewas back to within one at 16-15. From there, the Gators held the Chippewas scoreless for 5:15 while Miller collected a three-point basket and Lewis netted four more points for the Orange and Blue to extend their advantage to 25-19.
The Gators jumped out to a 10-point lead on the Chippewas nearing the close of the half when Moss sunk one from beyond the arc with 2:38 remaining. Miller and Needles added two more buckets apiece to make it a 34-25 advantage. Bonds dictated the Gators tempo in the first half, and solidified that momentum when she hit a fade-away jumper at the buzzer to send the Gators to the locker room with a 36-25 lead.
Florida takes a few days away from the court for a holiday break before playing host to Holy Cross on Fri., December 28 at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. That game is the final non-conference outing for the Gators, who begin Southeastern Conference action on January 3 at nationally-ranked Kentucky.
The 2012 Gator Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team:
MVP – Sydney Moss, Florida
Jennifer George, Florida
Jessica Schroll, Central Michigan
Chatilla van Grinsven, Saint Joseph’s
Erin Hogue, Savannah State
Florida head coach Amanda Butler:
“I’ll share the same opening thoughts that I did on the radio. We didn’t want anyone to leave before the trophy presentation, so we decided to make it really interesting down the stretch and I think we did a good job of that. Seriously, we beat a very good team. I’m proud of that, no question. Sometimes our wins aren’t as pretty as we hoped they’d be. This one had its spots and its moments, but it had its ugly spots also. I think for this team, sometimes learning hard lessons will be the most valuable way for us to grow. It is definitely a process and a journey. Like I said, we beat a good team and we want to play good teams. We want to be challenged and we were challenged tonight and came out with a win and that’s what’s most important.”
On committing 29 turnovers against Central Michigan...
“We just had a lack of composure and we didn’t have our point guard leader on the floor. That obviously put us in a very adverse situation. I thought Sydney (Moss) really stepped up and tried to shoulder some of those responsibilities. That’s hard to do in those moments when you’re playing against a team down the stretch that has nothing to lose and they’re just coming at you with a steal or a foul or whatever. I thought that was really big of her to do that. It’s something that we’re going to learn from, there’s no question. We’re going to play teams as we go along that are better and better. We just have to practice composure.”
On the overall play of the team during the tournament...
“Taking care of the basketball, I thought it was two completely different games. We were so happy with how well we protected the ball against Savannah State, who is also somewhat of a pressure team that tries to pop the ball out. We had nine turnovers against them and to flip that around and have 29 turnovers tonight, that’s got have our attention. I think that’s where our biggest area of growth is needed. We need to be more consistent and be able to flip that round on consecutive nights. Certainly, when it matters most, the wheels can’t come off the wagon. That’s when you have to be the most confident, the most vocal and really sure about the next play.”
UF junior Jaterra Bonds
On coming back from not scoring in the previous game...
“I just wanted to forget about what happened last game and just play with confidence. I know I shot horrible in the first game, so I just wanted to flush it out and forget about it and come out knowing the next one will go in.”
On receiving a technical foul in the second half...
“I lost my cool. I’ll admit I haven’t had a technical foul since my junior year of high school. I can assure you that won’t ever happen again.”
On having to sit and lead the team from the bench...
“Coach Page came and talked to me before I sat down and said ‘Now that you are out, you can’t be so consumed in yourself, sit here and just pout. Now you have to lead from the bench.’ I had to get over myself real quick and be loud and encouraging and help out when I see different things on the court and try to cheer them up. I couldn’t just wallow in my pity. I had to lead from the bench.”
UF redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis
On her performance tonight...
“I just felt like it was a quick turnaround. Yesterday, I didn’t think I played bad, things just didn’t go my way. Today was just suited for who I am. I’m a slippery player and I just got inside the seams where I could. When you have good players like Jennifer George down low and penetrators like Sydney and me because it’s easy to get shots off. Rebounding tonight, my goal was to get four offensive rebounds, which I did. Coach Butler told me during one of the breaks that I wouldn’t watch. I fall victim to that a lot. So I wanted to stay engaged.”
UF freshman Sydney Moss
On the team’s play against a good Central Michigan team...
“Guard-wise, we’ve been working on our ball-handling skills. Just because Jaterra (Bonds), one of our best ball-handling players, doesn’t mean we can’t bring the ball up the floor just as well as she could. I thought the guards played really well.”
Sue Guevara, Central Michigan Head Coach
It was a very tough lost for us. I thought we lost the game in the first half, probably during the last minute when we where down four and then they hit a three. Then we started the second half with two turnovers and a foul. I think in those five minutes, the last two of the first half and the first three of the second half we dug ourselves in a hole.
On a three point game difference at 12:36 mark of the second half with an opportunity to change the game:
At that point when she [Jaterra Bonds] got a technical foul, I though this can be a four point swing if we make all four free throws then we are good, and we make one, one out of four. Those kinds of opportunities against a team like Florida, you have to take advantage of that. I will tell you what, we battled, and we caused 29 turnovers with Florida. Our defense was tough the whole time, during the last 20 minutes. We just struggled to score in the first half with 25 points in the first half and 50 in the second half.
What do you take away from this lost
“With the schedule that we are playing, we know we can play with the big girls, the big dogs. We just have to be more consistent, and I have been saying that for a couple of games now. To get that consistent play we need to work together and not give that three to four minutes to one-on-one, because that three to four minutes can really hurt us. Our kids understand that, you know we didn’t win this championship but the most important championship we need to win is the MAC Championship.”
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Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK and @CoachButlerUF