Wednesday March 20, 2013Women's Hoops Ready for FIU in WNIT First Round on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Gators are in the postseason for the sixth straight year.
The Gators are in the postseason for the sixth straight year.
Florida travels to Miami and plays FIU in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday with tip-off at U.S. Century Bank Arena scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Gators (18-14) earned their 20th postseason berth in program history, as well as their sixth consecutive postseason trip - every year under head coach Amanda Butler.
This is Florida’s sixth appearance in the WNIT, fourth under the direction of Butler, who also directed the Gators to the second round of the 2009 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments.
While Florida has made five previous trips to the postseason, the current group of Gators is a bit lean on postseason experience of any kind.
Only Jennifer George, Jaterra Bonds and Lily Svete have played in a postseason game.
George, Florida’s lone senior, has scored in double-figures in 19 of the 30 games she has played this year. George is the Southeastern Conference’s active career leader in double-doubles with 28, as well as the league’s active career leader in rebounds (890), is second for blocks (181) and fifth for steals (163).
This year George leads the Gators in rebounding (8.0), steals (1.9) and blocks (46) and ranks second for scoring (11.5 pg) and field goal percentage (47.7%)
Bonds, a junior, is averaging a team-leading 12.7 points with 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists (second on the team) per game, while netting a team-best 24 double-figure scoring games.
Svete, also a junior, is on pace to set Florida’s single-season record for three-point shooting percentage. Entering Thursday’s game, Svete is converting 40.5 percent (45-111) of her attempts.
The remainder of the Gator’s active roster is filled with one sophomore and four freshmen.
“One of the things that has been obvious about our team is that as the season has gone on, as we’ve played more and more games, you’ve seen more and more from this team,” Butler said. “You’ve seen the development and the growth and the maturing process that is inevitable. The more games they play the better they are going to be, especially our young players. This is a great opportunity to continue to develop and figure out who they are as a unit. The reality is that we’re playing right now but the majority of this unit will be back next year and as far as we can go will give us that much more of a head start for those guys as they move forward.”
Entering the season, only three current players had suited up with the Gators for an away game in the last two years, with George, Svete and Bonds the only players with recent experience playing in hostile arenas. Redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis had not played a road game since Jan. 23, 2011 at LSU, as she missed the final 19 games of her freshman year while the three games she played last season prior to redshirting were at home.
Over the last three games, freshman Sydney Moss is averaging 17.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game - leading the Gators in all three categories.
During that same span, Bonds is contributing 15.7 points while hitting 44.1 percent (15-34) from the floor, 57.1 percent 4-7) from the three-point arc and 81.3 percent (13-16) from the free throw line.
As a team, Florida is hitting 37.2 percent from beyond the arc over the last three outings, with redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles drilling 7-of-14 (50%) and freshman January Miller canning 4-of-10 (40%).
“There are lessons to be learned,” said Butler of the team just missing out of an NCAA berth. “You want to put yourself in the position to want to be in and ultimately it’s someone else’s decision unless you win your conference championship so we don’t have time for that right now. We have a new mission and we’re excited about that mission. The level of excitement that a team has is a powerful force and often leads to success.”
Overall, 17 of Florida’s game this season have been decided by 10 points or less (8-9 record).
Florida played 19 of its 32 games against 15 different teams that received a postseason bid, logging a 7-12 record in those contests. Ten of the Gator’s opponents are in the NCAA Tournament, while five are competing in the WNIT with Florida.
The Gators have won at least one round in every postseason event under Butler, advancing to the third round of the 2011 WNIT.
The Panthers (19-12) finished third in the Sun Belt Conference regular season standings and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament where they fell to eventual champion Middle Tennessee, 68-59.
“We started studying FIU as soon as we learned we would be playing them in the first round. They are a very good team and are very well coached,” Butler said. “They present a lot of different concerns, mainly (Jerica) Coley, who leads the country in scoring. She’s a very dynamic and impressive lady.
“One of the things that is unique about the postseason is that after you come off a season when you have such familiarity with the teams you’re playing and know each other by first name and know tendencies that you barely need a personnel scout and then move into the postseason to a team that is completely foreign,” Butler continued. “To be able to describe a player like Coley, you think of her like (Tennessee’s) Meighan Simmons (2013 SEC Player of the Yaer). This is where you can compare similarities and connect the dots.”
FIU junior guard Jerica Coley is a two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and has amassed over 2,000 career points and leads the country in scoring with 25.9 points per game.
“Coley is very efficient, and Simmons is a good comparison. Marshall Henderson, the young man who plays for Ole Miss is another good comparison to Coley’s ability to score,” Butler praised. “She does have the ball in her hands a lot and does take a lot of shots, but she doesn’t take a lot of bad shots. She doesn’t force a lot of shots. She just is exceptional. She has a good pull-up game, a great game off the dribble, which isn’t as prevalent in the women’s game. She is complete.”
Florida leads the all-time series against Florida International, 4-2, with the Panthers holding a 2-1 record in games played on their home court. The last time the two teams met was on Nov. 29, 2009, when the Gators earned the 71-60 victory in the FIU Thanksgiving Classic.
George is the only player on either current roster who suited up for that game. George, then a freshman, earned the first start of her young career in that game, finishing with six points and five rebounds. Svete was on that Gator team, but tore her ACL in practice the day prior to the game.
The 2013 WNIT field includes 31 teams that earned an automatic berth and 33 that received an at-large bid. All games are hosted by a participating school. First round games will be played from March 20-22
The event culminates Saturday, April 6 with the championship game, which will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network. All games are hosted by participating schools.
The official website of the WNIT is www.womensnit.com.
Florida (18-14, 6-10 SEC) at FIU (19-12, 12-8 Sun Belt)
Thur., March 22, 2013 * 7 p.m., ET
2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament
U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) * Miami, Fla.
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)
Internet Scoring: LIVE thru www.Gatorzone.com (FREE)
Internet Video: LIVE thru www.FIUSports.com
U.S. Century Bank Arena Press Row: 305-348-3702
*the Gators will be making their 20th all-time postseason appearance
(13 NCAA, 6 WNIT and 1 NWIT); 19th postseason in the last 21 years
*UF has earned a postseason berth all six years under Coach Butler
*17 of UF’s 32 games have been decided by 10 points or less (8-9)
*11 of UF’s 16 SEC regular-season games were decided by 8 points or less
*Florida has played 72 games over the last four seasons with outcomes decided by 10 points or less - that’s an AVERAGE of 18 games per season of thrillers
*Only three Gators on the current roster have every played in a postseason game (Jaterra Bonds, Jennifer George & Lily Svete)
For all of the latest information on Florida women’s basketball:
Official Website: www.gatorzone.com/basketball/women
Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK and @CoachButlerUF