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The Gators met with the media Saturday prior to UF's NCAA Tournament first-round match-up with Dayton Sunday

Saturday March 22, 2014Butler, Bonds & Lewis Preview NCAA Tourney First-Round Action at Saturday Press Conference

Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators met with the media Saturday prior to UF's NCAA Tournament first-round match-up with Dayton Sunday

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- On the eve of their 2014 NCAA Tournament first-round match-up with the Dayton Flyers, Gator women’s basketball head coach Amanda Butler, senior Jaterra Bonds and junior Kayla Lewis met with the media Saturday at Florida’s press conference in the Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State University campus.

 

The 11th-seeded Gators and sixth-seeded Flyers take to the court at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN in first-round action. For all ways to follow the Orange and Blue Sunday, visit UF’s complete broadcast listings.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES

Head Coach Amanda Butler

On the Gators’ smaller starting lineup and how they’ve managed to win:

“It’s just never what we’ve focused on. We’ve never focused on what we didn’t have or what we weren’t. We dwelled on the things that have made us special, good and gave us an advantage and tried to make those important in our strategy and game planning -- and then in our own minds. Our team, and in particular our leadership, did a great job of just leaning into the idea that smaller is better. What you believe is so powerful. I think our team really believed that – that smaller is better. A smaller lineup allows us to be maybe a little quicker, get end-to-end a little faster and have just a bit more defensive versatility. I just have to give them a lot of credit because they never let that be a factor. It was a great story line, it was a great thing for folks on the outside, but it was not what our team was dwelling on at all.”

 

On how the team prepared with a good combination of getting rest and ready:

“Our team did a great job of maintaining focus. We did a lot of planning, a lot of meeting and talking as a staff really trying to decide how much time we really needed to take off and balancing out and mixing in days off with that gap of time from competition to competition. We have tremendous leadership on this team, regardless. If we had practiced every single day for two and a half hours, I don’t doubt my team’s focus at all. Obviously we didn’t do that but you hope, as a staff, you struck the right balance of rest and readiness and intensity and all those sorts of things. We’ll find out when we play tomorrow.”

 

On the Dayton matchup:

“I don’t see a lot of weaknesses, I’ll tell you that. Jim (Jabir) has done a fantastic job with his team. Looking at some of their earlier game film and then all the way through to their conference championship game. It’s a team that really improved throughout the year – and they didn’t start off in a bad spot. They’re one of the best teams in the country. They look a lot like some of the teams we’ve faced in our conference, they’re big, they are fast, they can score a lot of points. They can put you in some defensive positions that are really tough. I think they are very complete, they are very confident. They play in a great, great basketball league and it has gotten them ready for their opportunity right now in the NCAA Tournament. There is a long list of strengths, no question. From the standpoint of the match-up, it’s one of those times in the year where you have to make who you are and what you do more important. That’s what we’re going to try to do. An interesting part of the ballgame I think will be some of the areas in the game where we overlap. We both like to run a little bit, we both like to score points and we’ll see how things shake out from there.”

 

On the chemistry of the team:

“It’s not something I can sum up in a quick way and do it adequately. It’s a fantastic group of women. I’ve already bragged on our leadership. They’ve worked very, very hard on that chemistry piece. They’ve really invested in one another and invested in ideas and concepts that extend past the court like trust, loyalty and commitment, that we tried to make important all year long. Our staff has done it as well. We have a great staff, a great team behind the team that I think also embodies those ideas; the way we value each other – not only for our skills, abilities and talents – but who we are as people and all the intangibles because I don’t think you go through a season like we have and a league like we have and be able to experience the amount of success that we have – certainly there was still more success to experience – without really having a serious amount of glue that comes from those intangibles and I’m really proud of my team from that standpoint more than anything else.”

 

 

RS Junior Guard/Forward Kayla Lewis

On the underdog role and if it suits the Gators:

“I think a lot of people have considered us the underdog being undersized and undermanned and having, at one point in the season, just seven players instead of our nine. We’ve never considered ourselves the underdog. We try to go out and be the more confident and aggressive team. That’s something Coach Butler has instilled in us from day one. Being the underdog seeding-wise is what everybody else might consider us, but we consider ourselves a great team. We made it into this field of 64. We came here to compete and win.”

 

On how Jaterra (Bonds) and Kayla have to step up to help guide the players who have never been to the NCAA Tournament before:

“I think because we play in the SEC, and some of our players like January (Miller) and Carlie (Needles), who are considered sophomores, last year had to make big plays in the WNIT. There isn’t anybody on our team who will be shell-shocked by the stage. We played Tennessee, one of the top teams in the nation, South Carolina – two No. 1 teams, and we went to their home floor and played well and hard. Those players who are younger stepped up and played well – Ronnie Williams, our true freshman, had 19 (points) and 10 (rebounds) against Kentucky. There isn’t anybody on our team who is afraid of the NCAA Tournament, it’s just another game. It’s a one-game season. Now you have to play one game and win. That’s the mindset everyone on our team has.”

 

 

Senior Guard Jaterra Bonds

On the toughness of the SEC and how it prepared the Gators for the NCAA Tournament:

“Day in and day out every Thursday and Sunday it’s a battle no matter if you’re at the bottom or top of the league. As you can see, Auburn and Alabama finished sixth and seventh. It’s a test of who wants it more. You know each other and what you’re going to do. It’s a matter of who wants it more, and who is going to dig down deep and execute offensively and defensively and value the ball.”

 

On the strength of the conference and how it compares to the rest of the NCAA Tournament field:

“The SEC is the best conference in the country. We go against some of the best players day in and day out. Our strength of schedule is at the top. It’s the hardest schedule in the country with some of the best players and some of the best coaches in the country. We have to be prepared both physically and mentally and have the right mindset every day. One of our things is we have to win the preparation battle. All year, the first thing we think of is winning the preparation battle. When you are prepared, you set yourself up for a better chance to win.”

 

On the preparation and how much the Gators did during the two-week period UF had from the conference tournament up to now:

We had a long time. You have to break it up. With us, we have nine players, so you have to manage it specific on what you work on each day – and work on yourself. We have to be smart in how we operate and I think Coach Butler and our staff have been doing a great job with that all season.”

 

On how Kayla (Lewis) and Jaterra have to step up to help guide the players who have never been to the NCAA Tournament before:

“You can’t overthink it or get nervous because you’re under the spotlight or on the big stage. You take it and prepare like every other game this season. Like Kayla said, this is just another game, another stepping stone to get us to where we want to be.”

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