Peck careful not to overwhelm young squad

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 11:48 p.m.

With the SEC schedule starting this week, first-year Florida women's basketball coach Carolyn Peck debated how to prepare her team for the tough up-coming conference games.

She first thought about breaking up the schedule into miniseasons. But then she thought about that breakdown. Into four-game stretches? How about weekend series? Perhaps month by month?

After deliberating this, Peck came up with the answer.

"Each season for us is one game, and then I break that one game down into one possession," Peck said. "That's what we look at. Otherwise, we get focused on too much on the other stuff that gets you distracted.

"Everybody knows the SEC is the toughest women's basketball conference in the country. If you start putting too much on that, then you probably could get easily overwhelmed, and I don't want to overwhelm this team."

The Gators certainly have had plenty of time to prepare for Thursday's SEC opener at Mississippi.

Their last game was beating Virginia 81-68 on Dec. 29 in the State Farm Classic. Other than taking two days off for New Year's celebrations, the players practiced all last week, sometimes going through two-a-days. And Peck said the practice time was productive.

"One of the biggest things we tried to work on was our defense," Peck said. "We want to be very versatile defensively because our shooting percentage isn't exactly where we want. We're not starting offensively as well as we want to. If we're not, we cannot allow the other team to shoot at will and get easy baskets."

Shooting 40.1 percent from the field, Florida ranks 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC. Ole Miss is last with a 38.5 shooting percent.

There were issues other than defense Peck addressed in practice.

"We've also done a lot of boxing-out drills," Peck said. "We're giving up 20-plus offensive rebounds a game and we've got to correct that.

"The other error that we've worked on is taking care of the basketball during transition. That's where the majority of our turnovers are. I'm not going to slow the team down, but what I've got to work on with them is to help them make good decision when we're running."

Florida has allowed opponents at least 20 offensive rebounds five times this season, and it has a 3-2 record in those games. The 45.7 rebounds given up a game are an SEC high.

As for turnovers, Florida also is averaging an SEC-high 20.6 a game. Seven games have resulted in at least 20 turnovers.

Even though the Gators have several areas of concern, Peck is happy of where her team is entering the SEC schedule.

"Being 8-4, I would consider it being a successful preconference season considering I have five freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors and two seniors," Peck said.

  • UPDATE: A month has passed since All-American center Vanessa Hayden broke her left leg, and the junior is making good progress.

    "She's put the crutches down," Peck said. "She's out of the boot and in an air splint. She's walking without a limp."

    Hayden fractured her fibula and sprained her ankle Dec. 7 early in the second half of the 81-77 loss at N.C. State.

    "We have not X-rayed her again to find out how that fracture is," Peck said. "Doctor said it's going to be about six to eight weeks, so I'm looking at the worst-case scenario of eight weeks. If it happens sooner, we'll all be pleasantly surprised."

    If Hayden needs the full eight weeks to recover, she will return in early February, usually the most crucial time for teams making a push for the NCAA Tournament.

    The Gators' February schedule has them playing Mississippi State, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss at home and traveling to Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

    Peck said Hayden has been doing about 45 minutes of cardio workout each night to remain in shape.

  • BASELINE NOTES: Former UF coaches have had mixed results in their first SEC game. Carol Ross and Debbie Yow were victorious in coaching their first SEC games, while Lea Henry, Carol Higginbottom-Whittmire and Mickie DeMoss all suffered losses in their conference openers. ... The Gators have an eight-game winning streak at home, which stands as the fourth longest in school history. The streak will be tested Sunday when Florida plays Georgia at 3 p.m. The home team has been victorious the past five games between the two SEC rivals.

    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or yond@gvillesun.com.

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