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The Gators have reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament for the second time in history.

Tuesday April 2, 2013Gators Ready for Drexel in WNIT Semifinal on Wednesday

Philadelphia, PA

The Gators have reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament for the second time in history.

Florida has advanced to the national semifinals of the WNIT and will play at Drexel on Wednesday at the John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia beginning at 7 p.m.


The other semifinal features Utah (22-13) playing at Kansas State (19-17) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.


Florida has won all four games on the road to advance to the WNIT semifinals, 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 March 27 in the round of 16 and James Madison, 85-80, on March 31.


“We’ve showed a tremendous amount of toughness and guts and perseverance through all of the things we’ve faced on the road,” said UF head coach Amanda Butler, who is 11-5 in the postseason in six years with the Gators. “The adversity of playing in front of great crowds full of Gator haters and had some fantastic individual performances. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do to this point. Our kids have worked very, very hard and we’re excited about the next challenge.”


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, followed by a quarterfinal thriller at James Madison.


“Playing on the road has been a great opportunity for us to grow and mature in ways that are not afforded when you have the comforts of home,” Butler shared. “It’s been fantastic for our players to come together and be focused just on each other and whatever team is up next. Last week was a very special week for us and we’d like to have another one.”


Florida’s 2013 WNIT run into the semifinals is just the second time in the 16-year history of the event that a team has reached the Final Four without playing a home game. Syracuse won four games in the 2012 tournament and reached the semifinals, but lost at James Madison, 74-71. No team has ever reached the WNIT championship game without playing at home.


Drexel opened its run with home wins against Iona (59-50) and Harvard (82-72), before capturing a pair of road victories at Bowling Green (50-47) and Auburn (56-43).


Wednesday’s game will be the first meeting between the two programs.


“They are really talented and a tough, tough matchup for us,” Butler shared. “They have player on their team, Hollie Mershon, who can play in any league in any tournament right now. She’s very special and very talented. She leads her team in just about every category.”


Mershon is a 5-10 senior forward and leads the Dragons in scoring (19.4 ppg), rebounding (6.2 rpg) and assists (4.8 apg), while hitting 35.8 percent (78-218) from the three-point arc and 86.4 percent (133-154) from the free throw line.


Taylor Wootton, a 6-1 senior forward, also records a double-figure scoring effort with 11.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and shoots 49.2 percent from the floor.


“They are very well coached. That’s one of the things that when you watch them on film you go, ‘Oh, gosh!’  They pose a lot of different challenges and can really shoot the ball well,” Butler said. “They do a great job of controlling tempo and making you play their style of game. We’re definitely going to have our hands full, especially playing on their court.


“They went to Auburn (in the WNIT quarterfinal) and handed them a pretty comfortable loss from the Drexel end of things,” Butler continued. “They played South Carolina to overtime this year and played a really tough non-conference schedule and were in that top three of the Colonial (Athletic Association) that we all know is very, very impressive. There is a lot to be concerned about.”


Florida is 10-6 all-time against the current alignment of the Colonial Athletic Association, 3-0 under coach Amanda Butler and 2-0 this year, having earned victories against Georgia State (84-65) on November 11 (84-65) and James Madison (85-80) on March 30.


The quarterfinal match-up for Florida and Drexel seemed like a mini SEC-CAA challenge, as the Gators squared off against the CAA’s second-place team James Madison, winning 85-80, while the Dragons defeated Auburn, 56-43, the SEC’s 11th-placed team.


Drexel finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season standings, while Florida was tied for eighth in the Southeastern Conference.


Three of UF’s four WNIT games this year have been decided by seven points or less, including the last two games which featured a combined 26 lead changes and 14 tied scores.


This is the second time in program history the Gators have reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament, not including the 1985 team’s run to the final of the NWIT that was an eight-team event. Florida won four games to advance to the 2000 WNIT championship game and lost to host Wisconsin, 75-74.


During UF’s four-game WNIT run, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) is averaging a team bests of 19.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, hitting 54.7 percent (35-64) from the floor. She has had two 20-point games and one double-double. Moss is the Gator leader in assists (3.8 apg), ranks second on the team for scoring (11.6 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and steals (1.4 pg). She has totaled four double-doubles and flirted with a triple-double five times. Moss has been the Gator’s game leader for assists 19 times, for rebounding 13 times and scoring nine times.


Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) is contributing 16.5 points, converting 82.6 percent (19-23) from the free throw line during the WNIT, setting a Gator record for made free throws in a season during the tournament. She hit the game-winner with three seconds remaining in the two-point round of 16 win at Charlotte and converted four free throws in the final 23.4 seconds to seal the victory at James Madison in the quarterfinals.


Overall, Bonds leads the Gators in scoring (13.1 ppg) and has averaged 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in addition to a team-leading 27 double-figure scoring games.


While Florida has made five previous trips to the postseason, the current group of Gators was a bit lean on postseason experience of any kind entering 2013.


Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.), Florida’s only senior, and juniors Bonds and Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) had played in a postseason game.


George leads the Gators in rebounding (7.7), steals (2.0) and blocks (55) and ranks second for field goal percentage (46.7%) and third for scoring (11.0 ppg).




Florida (22-14, 6-10 SEC) at Drexel (26-10, 13-5 CAA)

Wed., April 3, 2013 * 7 p.m., ET

2013 WNIT Semifinals

John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center (2,532) * Philadelphia, Pa.





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Opening Tip

*UF is in the SEMIFINALS of a national postseason tournament for the second time in program history (2000 WNIT)

*this is the first meeting between Florida and Drexel

*the Gators are 6-4 when playing in the state of Pennsylvania, including 1-0 this year

*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

*20 of UF’s 36 games have been decided by 10 points or less (11-9)

*Florida has played 75 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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