Friday December 20, 2013Florida Defeats Tennessee State, Marches Into Gator Holiday Classic Championship Game
Christin Mercer posted her second double-double of the year and third of her career.
Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) and Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) both charted double-doubles and Florida defeated Tennessee State, 86-56, in the first round of the 23rd Annual Gator Holiday Classic played at the O’Connell Center Friday evening.
The Gators will play FIU in the championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Panthers defeated La Salle, 84-58, in their opening round game, as senior guard Jerica Coley, who led the nation in scoring last year, dropped in 33 points in Friday’s victory. The Lady Tigers and Explorers will meet in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m.
Lewis tallied 19 points on a career-tying 9-11 shooting and 13 rebounds, with 13 points and 12 rebounds coming in the first half alone as she needed just 24 minutes to register her second consecutive double-double. The junior left the game with 9:18 to play after falling hard when she was fouled skiing for a defensive rebound, but with Florida’s significant second-half lead she was not needed to reenter the contest.
Florida opened the game on a 15-2 run that saw baskets from six different Gators. Florida’s first-half lead reached 20 before heading to the locker room up 43-29. Behind a strong second-half effort from Mercer and Cassie Peoples (San Antonio, Texas) after Lewis went down, the Gators outscored the Lady Tigers 43-27 in the second half.
Mercer enjoyed a career night off the bench, tying her career high with 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Mercer’s performance was her second double-double of the season and third of her career. Peoples chipped in 16 points and five assists and Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) added 10 points off the bench.
The Gators shot 50 percent from the field, improving to 7-1 on the year when hitting at least 40 percent. UF also improved to 9-0 when topping 70 points.
For the eighth time of the season, every Gator that dressed out scored. Florida is now 3-0 all-time against Tennessee State. UF has won seven consecutive games in the Gator Holiday Classic and will go for its fourth consecutive GHC crown.
· Kayla Lewis led all scorers with 19 points and added 13 rebounds for her second double-double of the season, second consecutive and fifth of her career. This marked Lewis’ fifth double-figure scoring game of the season and 21st of her career as well as her fifth double-digit rebounding game of the season and 10th of her career.
· Cassie Peoples cranked out her sixth double-digit scoring game of the season and career. Peoples finished with 16 points on 6-10 shooting.
· Christin Mercer notched 18 points on 5-8 shooting for her third double-digit game of the season and ninth of her career.
· Carlie Needles recorded 10 points for her fourth double-digit game of the season and 10th of her career at UF.
By the Numbers
· Florida moves to 3-0 on the year when four Gators score in double figures.
· The Gators forced 24 turnovers, and are now 8-2 when the opponent turns the ball over 17 or more times.
· Florida scored 20 points off turnovers. This marked the seventh time this year that the Gators have scored 20+ points off turnovers.
· Florida outrebounded TSU by a margin of 47-40. The Gators are now 5-2 when outrebounding their opponent.
· UF connected on five three-point shots, moving to 6-2 on the year when knocking down at least five three’s.
· The Gators went to the line 36 times, and are now 7-3 on the year when attempting 20 or more free throws.
· UF distributed the ball well, as seven of eight Gators recorded an assist. Florida totaled 20 assists compared to 21 turnovers.
· UF’s bench contributed 30 points.
Individual Numbers of Note
Lewis’s 19th point of the game was the 500th point of her career.
· Mercer made a career-high eight free throws on 10 attempts. Mercer’s previous career best was four.
· With five assists, Jaterra Bonds is now four shy of 375 career assists.
· With four points, Lily Svete is now three shy of 400 career points.
· Needles’s first-half three-pointer represented the 109th consecutive game a Florida player has made a three.
· Mercer scored her 300th career point on a layup with 1:38 left in the first half.
· Lewis hit her first three-pointer of the season
· Bonds brought down five boards, to give her 353 career rebounds.
Gator Starting ‘5’
· Senior Jaterra Bonds started her 81st straight game; 94th of her career.
· Junior Kayla Lewis started her 11th straight game; 39th of career.
· Sophomore January Miller started her 12th career game.
· Senior Lily Svete started her 26th straight game; 44th of her career.
· Sophomore Cassie Peoples started her third career game.
· With the combination of Svete, Miller, Bonds, Peoples and Lewis, Florida has now used five different starting lineups in just 11 games this season.
Updated Records: Florida 8-3 … Tennessee State 3-9
Quotes from the Court:
Head Coach Amanda Butler
“Really, really, tough, physical, hard-fought game. It didn’t look like the margin of victory in the game; it didn’t feel that way at all. That’s a lot of credit to Tennessee State and how hard they played and how ready their coach had them to play. There were some really good individual performances. I thought our second half was a lot more indicative of what we wanted the entire game to look like, mainly in the paint. Thought we did a better job of defending, a better job of really making the main things on our game plan the main things. The first half, we were just a little too spotty and a little too loose. I thought we made some decisions in the first half that didn’t allow us to be our best but again had some really good individual performances and people who hit big shots that allowed us to separate ourselves a little bit.”
On the toughness of the game not flowing…
“You know I’ve shared my frustration with the team about that. I think they were frustrated as well. That’s why I have to give a lot of credit for continuing to fight. The consistency of their fight was really good. The game certainly didn’t flow as much but we continued to make plays in crucial moments that allowed us to separate ourselves a little bit. It was a very physical game, it was a choppy game, a lot of free throws were shot. That’s something that we have to learn to adjust to better – how the game being called and now how do I adjust to that. What is it that official sees wrong in my play. Overall, I thought we did a good job of that. We had a lot of factors to manage and a lot of adversity to overcome and I’m proud of the way we did that.”
On facing FIU’s Jerica Coley tomorrow…
”She’s so good. I have a ton of respect for her. I think she hung 36 or 38 on us last year. Very, very talented young lady. She had a very smooth game, very complete game and then she’s managed by a very good coach who has been winning ball games for a long time. We know we’re going to have our hands full. We know it’s going to be a very quick mental turn-around. Physically, we have to do everything we can to rejuvenate ourselves and get ready for the challenge tomorrow. But the most important thing is that we come away with the win. And we’ll figure out how to do that. I don’t know what that’s going to look like right now, but we’ll figure out a way to do that.”
On Kayla Lewis’ injury…
“Just a hard fall, I think she’ll be ok. We will just have to see how stiff she wakes up in the morning. You know this is just part of tournament play. The big advantage that we have in facing another great opponent tomorrow is that on the other side of that you have some days of rest. But we will do whatever is best for Kayla.”
UF Sophomore Cassie Peoples
On her performance…
“I think we did have a good start to the game. We came into halftime a little bit disappointed with how we finished the half and how we just weren’t consistent in the first half. We did a little bit better job in the second half but we still weren’t where we wanted to be but we got the win at the end of the day so that’s the good thing.”
UF Sophomore Christin Mercer
On the physicality of the game…
“I would say keeping your composure was pretty hard, at least for myself. The refs weren’t calling too many fouls and that’s something you have to play against in the game. It’s not just the other five opponents that are playing against you. But I would say the physicality of the game was ok. We play with boys in practice so it’s kind of easier to manage it, thanks to coach Butler. So that’s all we had to do, just take a deep breath and play our basketball.”
Tennessee State HC Larry Joe Inman
“I thought it was a pretty physical game. I felt that we battled and I felt that the Gators battled. We didn’t play our best basketball tonight and I’m sure the Gators didn’t either. There are a lot of adverse situations that affects the game. I’m really adamant about people coming to the game to watch the players, not a free throw contest and a lot of times now that’s what it has come to and that’s very disappointing. Our kids work really hard and not just to shoot free throws. But, it is what it is. I thought we battled well on the boards. The problem we had with our team was free throws. If a free throw was as big as this room, we probably wouldn’t have it made it in there. Our kids played hard and their kids played hard, but it was just an ugly game. It was go, stop, go, stop, and neither team could get into a flow.”
“We’re very young. We started three freshmen, so we’re very young and this is good for us. It’s good to play at an upper level SEC school. We’re playing good competition and you can’t help but get better when you’re playing upper-level competition. I think our kids competed and did the best they could. We’re proud to be able to play a caliber team like Florida and it was fun. It was a lot of fun.”
“The SEC is a lot more physical. For us, it’s good because it brings on the physicality that our team needs to learn to play with. The kids learn to play better. They have to be quicker; they have to shoot better; and it’s just a ton of things that they’ll pick up. We look forward to coming here. We look forward to playing good teams. You have a great program and a great school here. I’m proud to be here and have the opportunity to compete on this floor with you.”
Florida (8-3) is hosting the 23rd Annual Gator Holiday Classic
Stephen C. O’Connell Center (11,373) * Gainesville, Fla.
Saturday’s Gator Holiday Classic Schedule:
Tennessee State vs. La Salle - 4:30 pm
Florida vs. FIU - 7 p.m.
Game Coverage & More!
· Radio: LIVE on ESPN850 WRUF-AM in Gainesville with Adam Schick & Brittany Davis
· Internet Audio (UF games): LIVE thru www.Gatorzone.com (FREE)
· Television: none
· Internet Video (UF games): LIVE on Gatorvision.tv (subscription)
· Internet Scoring (All Games): LIVE thru GatorZone.com (FREE)
· Tickets: $5 for reserved seats; $4 adult general admission; $2 for youth age 17 and under; FREE for UF and Santa Fe students
· Parking: FREE in the O’Connell Center lot parking garage
Additional Hoopla for Saturday’s Game:
· High School Days: High school coaches and players are invited to attend the Gator Holiday Classic for free. Coaches, players and one family member will be sent letters of compliance forms if they’d like to participate.
· Toys for Tots: Donate a toy to the Toys for Tots Program and receive free admission to both games today. Help a child in need this Holiday season!
· Winter Wonderland: Celebrate the holiday season with the Gators and take your photo with Alberta in Winter Wonderland.
For all of the latest information on Florida women’s basketball:
Official Website: www.gatorzone.com/basketball/women
Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK and @CoachButlerUF