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Senior Jennifer George leads the Gators into Tuscaloosa on Sunday.

Friday February 22, 2013Gators Travel to Tuscaloosa for Sunday Showdown against the Tide

Tuscaloosa, AL

Senior Jennifer George leads the Gators into Tuscaloosa on Sunday.

Florida and Alabama are both in need of win and one of those teams will halt its respective down slides when the Gators travel to Tuscaloosa and play the Crimson Tide in historic Foster Auditorium on Sunday with tip-off scheduled for 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT).


Florida has lost its last three games, while Alabama its last seven games, including its last home contest on Feb. 10, when the Tide lost a triple-overtime heartbreaker, 91-80, to Arkansas.


“First and foremost we have to play with a ton of energy, purpose and intent, regardless of whether it’s a first-day-of-preparation practice or when we hit the floor for a game,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “Our next opportunity is Sunday at Alabama. Our energy has to be right. Our feelings about ourselves have to be right and we have to execute with a purpose, absolutely every possession with a purpose. “


Including Sunday’s game, Florida has just three regular-season games remaining before the SEC Tournament. After the game against Alabama on Sun., Feb. 24, Florida plays host to host Arkansas on Thur., Feb. 28 and travels to Columbia, S.C., to play the No. 16/14-ranked Gamecocks in the regular-season finale.


“We’re in a tough spot right now and all we can do is win,” Butler said. “We have three regular-season games left and the Alabama one is the one that matters the most because that’s the one that’s next.”


This will be the second meeting this year between the Crimson Tide and the Gators, who claimed the 87-54 win in Gainesville on February 3rd. During that victory, UF freshman Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) notched her first career double-double, as five Gators scored in double-figures. Mercer led all scorers with a career-best 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting to accompany her game and career-high 11 rebounds. The Gators shot a season-best 58.3 percent (35-60) from the floor and held a 51-33 rebounding advantage against the Crimson Tide, who managed to hit just 25.7 percent of their shots, including a 3-of-23 three-point effort.


“It’s going to be difficult,” said Butler of the rematch on Sunday. “The margin of victory in the first game was 33 points and that’s a little dangerous for a young team because they might be thinking ‘this is a team we beat badly and that same thing should happen again.’ We’ve really got to understand why we won the way that we did.


“Part of it was that we were at home and played the way we should have on our home floor,” Butler continued. “We will not have that advantage on Sunday, Alabama does and they play very different at home than they do on the road. We’ve got to look at the little things that gave us the lead and how we sustained it, our tempo came from our defense which was part of our rebounding effort,  which was tremendous in that game. We really set the tone, sustained it and even took it up a notch and that was really, really important. We had probably the best start to a ball game that we had all year and we’ve got to bring that again.”


Alabama leads the overall 52-game series against Florida, 29-23.  The Crimson Tide also hold a 12-7 advantage when playing in Tuscaloosa. Florida’s last win in Tuscaloosa was on Feb. 5, 2009, when the Gators claimed the 92-71 victory in Coleman Coliseum.


Freshman Sydney Moss and junior Jaterra Bonds both are closing in on 100 assists this season, with Moss entering Sunday’s game with 96 and Bonds with 92. Dishing 100 assists in a season has only happened 17 times in program history, most recently in 2010-11 when Lanita Bartley had 119. The last - and only - time two Gators had 100 assists in the same season was during the 2000-01 campaign, when Tombi Bell had 139 and Brandi McCain has 124 assists.


Moss is the Gator leader in assists (3.5 apg), ranks second on the team for rebounding (6.3 rpg) and steals (1.6 pg), while ranking third for scoring (10.0). She has flirted with a triple-double five times. Among SEC freshmen entering the games of Feb. 24, Moss ranks second for assists, third for rebounding and fourth for scoring. She has been the Gator’s game leader for assists 12 times, for rebounding seven times and scoring five times.


“She’s really starting to figure out how to play her best basketball against the best competition and that is a process,” shared Butler of Moss. “It’s an on-going process. I’d still like to see her finish more of the shots that she’s taking, but she’s creating a lot of action with her dribble. She has great court vision, with the ability to make right-handed and left-handed passes equally well. Her size and strength are really working for her now. Her teammates are more ready for her passes which also makes a difference.”


Over the last three games, Bonds is averaging a team-best 13.0 points and has dished 11 assists, while converting 75.0 percent (9-12) from the free throw line. Overall, Bonds is averaging 12.2 points (second on the team) with 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists (second on the team) per game.


Bonds, who is the only Gator who has started every game, ranks eighth in SEC games for scoring (14.3 ppg), fifth for free throw percentage (75.3%), tied for 13th for assist-to-turnover ratio (+0.79) and tied for 12th for assists (2.9 pg).


Preseason First Team All-SEC honoree Jennifer George seems to be returning to her pre-injury self, averaging 12.0 points with 8.7 rebounds over the last three games. George, who is the SEC’s active career leader in double-doubles with 27, most recently tallied a 13-point, 11-rebound effort against Vanderbilt (Feb. 21). George leads the Gators in scoring (12.2 pg), rebounding (8.0), steals (2.0) and blocks (37) and second for field goal percentage.


Mercer is averaging over the five games 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds - and that includes her 18-point, 11 rebound (both career-highs) night against Alabama (Feb. 2). She hit 66.7 percent (26-39) of her shots from the floor during those last five games.



VIDEO: watch Coach Butler’s weekly recap and preview of Sunday’s game via GatorVision Online



Florida (15-12, 4-9 SEC) at Alabama (12-14, 2-11 SEC)

Sun., Feb. 24, 2013 * 3 p.m. ET

Foster Auditorium (3,800)

Tuscaloosa, Ala.





Game Coverage & More!

Radio: LIVE on The Star 99.5 FM (WBXY) in Gainesville and on AM930 (WFXJ) in Jacksonville with Adam Schick & Brittany Davis

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Television: none


Opening Tip

*this is the second meeting this year between Florida and Alabama; the Gators won Feb. 3rd game in Gainesville, 87-54

*UF has three games remaining before the SEC Tournament

*Ten of UF’s 13 SEC games have been decided by 8 points or less

*Overall UF has played 14 games decided by 10 points or less (6-8)

*Jennifer George’s next block moves her into sole possession of 4th all-time in UF history (has 172 entering Sunday’s game)

*Jaterra Bonds has led UF in scoring in 6 of its SEC games





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