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During UF’s three-game WNIT run, freshman Sydney Moss is averaging team bests of 17.0 points and 8.7 reboun

Friday March 29, 2013Florida Plays at James Madison in WNIT Quarterfinals on Saturday at 4 p.m.


During UF’s three-game WNIT run, freshman Sydney Moss is averaging team bests of 17.0 points and 8.7 reboun

Florida has advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals and plays at James Madison at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va., on Saturday, when tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.


This is the third time in program history the Gators (21-14) have reached the quarterfinals of a national postseason tournament, not including the 1985 team’s run to the final of the NWIT that was a 16-team event. Florida reached the Elite 8 of the 1997 NCAA Tournament where the Gators lost to Old Dominion, 53-51, and won four games to advance to the 2000 WNIT championship game and lost to host Wisconsin, 75-74.


Florida has won all three games on the road to advance to the WNIT quarterfinals, defeating FIU, 75-68, on March 21 in the first round, topping Winthrop, 85-53, on Monday in the second round and earning a thrilling 67-65 win at Charlotte on Wednesday in the round of 16.


The Gators trailed Charlotte by four points with 1:05 remaining before January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) drilled a three-pointer with 52 seconds on the clock and Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) came up with a steal with 24 seconds left. Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) was fouled and made the first free throw and tied the game at 65 with 20.1 seconds remaining, but missed the second attempt. Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) collected the miss and the Gators called a timeout to draw up the final play that worked to perfection, as Bonds spun in the paint and dropped in the floater with three seconds remaining for the 67-65 victory. The game featured 10 lead changes and four tied scores.


“There were some things that have got to be better if we’re going to continue to move on in this tournament against good teams,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said of the team’s performance against the 49ers. “I thought our rebounding effort was average at best. The play down the stretch, I thought we showed a whole lot of toughness, though. A lot of our character showed through and not just the last play. January hitting a big three, George’s rebound, Christin making some really big plays on defense. It just seemed like as you go through the game, everyone contributed in a different way. Carlie had a big three and gave us a lot of energy on defense in the second half.


“We showed a lot of toughness and guts in the way we played, which is essential this time of year,” Butler continued. “Balls are going to take crazy bounces, crazy calls are going to be made, everyone feels the pressure and stress of being one of the few remaining teams in the country that is still playing. We just have to be ready to play through all that.”


James Madison (25-10) has played host to every round of the WNIT, defeating North Carolina A&T, 77-64 on March 21, N.C. State, 72-66, on March 24 and Fordham, 77-61 on Wednesday.


The Dukes are 14-5 at home this season and boast an incredible 16-0 all-time home record in postseason games with a 12-0 mark in WNIT action and 4-0 in NCAA contests. The Gators are 7-7 this year in true road games.


Senior point guard Tarik Hislop leads JMU in scoring (16.1 ppg) and assists (3.4 apg), while junior guard Kirby Burkholder averages 14.9 points and a team-best 9.1 rebounds per game. Burkholder scored 26 points on 6-of-10 three-pointers with 10 rebounds in the Dukes WNIT win against Fordham.


“James Madison is a very good team, they are dynamic and fast,” Butler said. “They are really good in transition and have some very threatening guards. Tarik Hislop can really score in bunches and in a lot of different ways. Kirby Burkholder is coming off a fantastic shooting game. She knocked down a bunch of threes against Fordham and is a big guard who puts you in a lot of tough spots. Precious Hall is a kid from Florida and was the CAA Freshman of the Year and she’s having a fantastic year.


“They have a really, really good guard crew,” Butler shared. “They have post players that add to that very nicely with their speed. The thing that jumps out to me is their offensive rebounding. They really pursue the ball like some of the best offensive rebounding teams we’ve played, like South Carolina.”


During UF’s three-game WNIT run, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) is averaging team bests of 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, hitting 54.4 percent from the floor. Overall, Moss is the Gator leader in assists (3.8 apg), ranks second on the team for scoring (11.2 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and steals (1.4 pg). Moss has been the Gator’s game leader for assists 19 times, for rebounding 12 times and scoring eight times.


Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) is contributing 15.3 points, converting 80 percent (12-15) from the free throw line during the WNIT and is one made free throw shy of tying the program’s season-record. Overall, Bonds is averaging a team-leading 12.9 points with 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists (second on the team) per game, while netting a team-best 26 double-figure scoring games.


As a team, Florida is hitting 39 percent from beyond the arc over the last three outings, with Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) and January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) both canning 5-of-11 (45.5 percent).


Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.), Florida’s lone senior, leads the Gators in rebounding (7.8), steals (2.0) and blocks (55) and ranks second for field goal percentage (47.6%) and is tied for second in scoring (11.2 ppg).


Florida was the only team in the WNIT’s round of 16 that played and won both of its two games on the road. The Gators continued their road run with a round of 16 victory at Charlotte.


“Each one of these games gets a little bit harder, the opponent gets a little bit better, the home environment that we go into becomes a little more hostile, they have a little more support and there are a few more Gator haters in each one of these gyms that we walk into,” Butler said. “It’s been a great opportunity for our team to grow and really come together, to really value chemistry and communication. These are some of the things we’ve been great at and really realize that we have to be great at if we want to continue to play.”


Overall, 19 of Florida’s game this season have been decided by 10 points or less, including two of the Gator’s three WNIT games.



Florida (21-14, 6-10 SEC) at James Madison (25-10, 15-3 CAA)

Sat., March 30, 2013 * 4 p.m., ET

2013 WNIT Quarterfinals

JMU Convocation Center (7,612) * Harrisonburg, Va.





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Opening Tip

*UF is in the quarterfinals of a national postseason tournament for the third time in program history (1997 NCAA, 2000 WNIT)

*the Gators are 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

*19 of UF’s 35 games have been decided by 10 points or less (10-9)

*Florida has played 74 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!

*Prior to 2013, only three Gators on the current roster had ever played in a postseason game (Jaterra Bonds, Jennifer George & Lily Svete)




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