Friday December 28, 2012Gators Defeat Holy Cross in Non-Conference Finale, 81-50
Jennifer George posted her 24th career double-double (photo: Matt Pendleton)
Senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) notched her fifth double-double of the year, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) flirted with a double-double and the Florida women’s basketball team capped its non-conference slate with an 81-50 victory over Holy Cross on Friday evening in the O’Connell Center.
The win was the sixth straight for the Gators (11-3), who earned their 14th consecutive home victory, as well as their 15th straight at home against non-conference opponents.
It was a tight game for the first 13 minutes when the Crusaders (5-6) cut Florida’s lead to two points with seven minutes left in the first half.
That’s when the Gators outscored Holy Cross 38-13 over the next 18 minutes and took a commanding 64-37 lead with 9:06 remaining in the game.
All nine Gators who dressed out for the game scored during that game-changing stretch paced by George, who scored 13 of her game-high 21 points during the span, including Florida’s first six points of the second half when the Gators outscored Holy Cross, 44-23, hit 51.4 percent of their shots and outrebounded their guests by 18.
George also collected 10 rebounds, six on the offensive end, and four steals, as she posted her fifth double-double of the year and the 24th of her career.
“I am very excited about this win. We had an individual purpose in mind, obviously to win, but also to set a tone going into the conference season. We did that,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I loved our balance and our response in the second half. I thought we didn’t play the first half as well as we should have. I think they really answered that halftime call, especially as a rebounding unit which is really important for us.”
Part of Florida’s big run came in the final seven minutes of the first half, when the Gators ended the frame on a 17-9 stretch and took a 37-27 lead into the locker room. Holy Cross held a 23-15 rebounding advantage during the first 20 minutes and limited Florida to 38.2 percent shooting.
Holy Cross scored the first bucket of the second half and dropped UF’s lead to single digits, but George scored the next six points and Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) drilled a three-pointer for a 17-point Gator lead. The Crusaders answered with a trey, but Moss canned a 12-footer and Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) followed with a 15-foot jumper and Florida never looked back, as the Gators regrouped to outrebound Holy Cross by 18 during the second half.
“We had four individuals who had not gotten a rebound yet,” Butler said of the difference between the first and second halves in the paint. “They had some individual challenges. Kayla Lewis was one of them and I think she really responded to that. I think Jennifer George did a great job setting the tone for us in the paint and really anchoring our game down low. That is what we expect her to do. That is what her teammates expect her to do. I think she was really playing with a lot of purpose tonight. That is important for us.”
Moss, who scored eight during Florida’s big run, finished with 17 points – one shy of her season-high – along with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) added 10 points and three assists to Florida’s winning effort.
Alex Smith scored 14 points to lead Holy Cross, which committed 26 turnovers that led to 33 Florida points.
The teams alternated with mini runs to begin the game, as the Gators scored the first six points that included four from George, before Holy Cross regrouped with the next eight points thanks to a pair of three-pointers.
Freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) ended that run with a steal and a layup to swing the scoring back in Florida’s favor, as Moss hit a fall-away 10-footer and Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.) put back her own miss and gave the Gators a 12-8 lead with 13:16 on the clock.
The teams then traded scores for the next two-plus minutes before Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) sank one free throw and then came up with a steal and dished to Needles, who nailed a three-pointer in her 12th different game of the year and the Gators held a 24-18 advantage with 9:36 to play in the first half.
Again, the Crusaders answered with four consecutive points as part of a 6-2 spurt to close the gap to two points, 26-24, with seven minutes remaining.
That’s when Florida went on an 8-0 march over the next 2:03 and took a 34-24 lead. George scored the first three points of that run from the free throw line, before Lily Svete knocked down a three-pointers and Moss followed with another steal and layin.
Holy Cross scored the next three points from the free throw line and was within seven, before Moss hit one free throw and Jaterra Bonds worked the final possession to perfection, hitting a tough short jumper in the paint with five seconds remaining and giving the Gators a 37-27 halftime lead.
George scored 10 points during the first half, when the Gators forced 17 turnovers that they converted into 18 points.
Alex Smith led all scorers during the first 20 minutes with 11 points, as she hit 3-of-5 three-pointers. Freshman Raquel Scott pulled down seven rebounds during the opening stanza and helped Holy Cross to the 23-15 rebounding advantage.
All nine Gators who dressed for the game scored during the first half, marking the seventh time this year every player who suited up contributed offensively.
The Gators next turn their attention exclusively to their Southeastern Conference schedule, which begins Thur., January 2 when Florida travels to Lexington to play No. 7/6 Kentucky (11-1) at Memorial Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. That game will be televised live on Sun Sports, SportSouth and FS Southwest, with live streaming video available thru www.espn3.com. The radio broadcast can be heard live in Gainesville on The Star 99.5 FM and through the internet free of charge at www.gatorzone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators.
*Every Gator who dressed out for the game scored; seventh time this year that’s happened
*This was Florida’s final non-conference game of the regular-season
*Florida has won 14 consecutive home games, including 15 straight against non-conference opponents.
*Tonight’s victory was Florida’s sixth consecutive win
*Jennifer George posted her fifth double-double of the year and the 24th of her career
*Jennifer George tallied her second 20-point game of the year and the sixth of her career
*Sydney Moss posted her eighth double-figure scoring game
*Jaterra Bonds posted her eighth double-figure scoring game this year and the 36th of her career
Florida head coach Amanda Butler:
“I am very excited about this win. We had an individual purpose in mind, obviously to win, but also to set a tone going into the conference season. We did that. I loved our balance and our response in the second half. I thought we didn’t play the first half as well as we should have. I think they really answered that halftime call, especially as a rebounding unit which is really important for us.”
On their play in the paint in the second half…
“It was pretty much across the board. We had four individuals who had not gotten a rebound yet. They had some individual challenges. Kayla Lewis was one of them and I think she really responded to that. I think Jennifer George did a great job setting the tone for us in the paint and really anchoring our game down low. That is what we expect her to do. That is what her teammates expect her to do. I think she was really playing with a lot of purpose tonight. That is important for us.”
Gator Senior Jennifer George
On transition offense…
“I think our emphasis was on blocking out. We changed our defense in the second half to switching off screens. I think all of that contributed to our high intensity defense.”
On coming off the break and heading into conference play…
“I think this game is a good confidence boost heading into Lexington for our first SEC game. I think we just need to keep working hard and improving so we can make good moves in the SEC.”
Gator Freshman Sydney
On her night…
“When we went into halftime, Coach Butler said do not try to out-jump people, actually box out. I kind of just went out there and that contributed to my success.”
On how much she has learned going into conference play…
“I’ve learned a lot just from the upperclassmen. Jennifer George is a big example, she doesn’t talk that much but she’s an example of a leader. I’ve learned a lot from her and Lily Svete. We are partners running, stretching. I’ve learned a lot from her.”
Bill Gibbons, Holy Cross Head Coach
“That is a terrific team, well coached team. I knew going in we would have to play a perfect game to stay with them.”
On the game
“I thought in the first half, defensively, we played really well. We switched things up and kept them off-balance. We just turned the ball over too much. Had we not turned the ball over it would have been even. The turnovers killed us.”
“In the second half, we were better with the basketball but defensively we lost our intensity and toughness, and I think lost our legs. They made some adjustments.”
On what he will take away from this loss
“That is a NCAA team, an SEC team, a well-coached team. We are going to try to bring some positives and try to get a win at Bethune-Cookman on Sunday to make this tough trip down here worth it.”
For all of the latest information on Florida women’s basketball:
Official Website: www.gatorzone.com/basketball/women
Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK and @CoachButlerUF