Ole Miss waiting for youthful UF


Published: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:00 a.m.

There has been a lot of talk about the Florida women's basketball team's youth during the first half of the season.

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"Half the players on my team have never played an SEC ball game," first-year UF coach Carolyn Peck said. "It's going to be a challenge."

Facts

Gameday

WHAT: Florida (8-4) at Ole Miss (10-2).

WHEN: 8 tonight.

WHERE: Tad Smith Coliseum, Oxford, Miss.

ON THE AIR: 850-AM.

SERIES: Florida leads 11-8.

Now the Gators (8-4) are moving to their SEC portion of their schedule, starting with tonight's game at Mississippi (10-2) at 8, and they expect pretty much the same focus.

"They're going to try to bully us period because we're such a young team," guard Tishona Gregory said. "We've got five freshmen, four sophomores, a junior and two seniors, so they're definitely going to try to, if not beat us physically, get in our heads and beat us on a mental level."

Given the strength of the SEC this season - the league has the third-highest conference RPI in the latest WBCA ranking and six teams are ranked in this week's AP poll - there is reason for the young UF team to get intimidated.

"Half the players on my team have never played an SEC ball game," first-year UF coach Carolyn Peck said. "It's going to be a challenge and it's going to be a learning experience. I hope it's going to be a good one."

But the Gators, picked to finish eighth in the preseason, feel the experiences they went through in the nonconference schedule should be enough preparation for the SEC games.

"The beginning of the season helped show us that we have to come together in order to be prepared for the SEC," forward Courtney Cooper said. "I think what we have done so far is come together."

Recent history suggests the nonconference schedule has prepared Florida well.

The Gators won their SEC opener six seasons in a row until last year's 88-64 loss to Tennessee to begin the conference schedule.

They still tied for fourth and finished with an 8-4 SEC record despite the loss, but they do not want to begin the conference schedule in the hole this season.

"(The first game) sets the tempo," Cooper said. "It's all on how you come out, if you come out and are ready. That's the same with everything. You have to come out and be ready."

Starting the SEC schedule with a winning record, however, is not Florida's only motivation for tonight's game.

The Gators also are trying to re-establish themselves nationally. They have been unranked all season but received votes in the first six editions of the AP poll. They have failed to receive any votes the past four polls.

"We're trying to accumulate as many wins as possible," Peck said. "Competing in the SEC is extremely important, but accumulating wins and trying to get into that NCAA Tournament is as important. And the only games we have left are SEC games, so we've got to try to take in as many wins as possible in the conference season."

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

Florida probable starters

NO. P PLAYER HT. CL. STATS

24 F Courtney Cooper 5-8 Sr. 14.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg

33 F Bernice Mosby 6-1 Fr. 14.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg

11 G Sarah Lowe 5-7 Fr. 11.9 ppg, 4.3 apg

5 G Tishona Gregory 5-5 So. 7.0 ppg, 2.9 apg

23 G Tamia Williams 6-0 So. 8.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg

Ole Miss probable starters

NO. P PLAYER HT. CL. STATS

22 F Leah Henry 5-9 Sr. 5.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg

34 F Tywanna Inmon 6-1 Jr. 6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg

33 C Amber Watts 6-3 So. 12.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg

11 G Carletta Brown 5-4 So. 6.6 ppg, 2.3 apg

2 G Tenisha Gist 5-10 Jr. 7.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Game notes

FLORIDA: Forward Courtney Cooper made a significant impact in her return to the lineup. She averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games and was named to the all-tournament team in the State Farm Classic. Defensively, she's helped the Gators hold opponents to shooting 32.7 percent the past two games. ... The Gators have won 11 in a row against the Rebels. While Florida has won by as many as 29 points in that stretch, winning 80-51 in 2000, the two victories last season were by a combined three points.

OLE MISS: The Rebels receive pretty balanced scoring from all of their players. Amber Watts is the only player averaging double-figure scoring, but six other players are netting more than six points a game. Reserve Ashley Johnson is averaging 9.5 points off the bench. But the UM offense is ranked last in the SEC in points a game (67.8) and shooting percentage (.385). ... Ole Miss is 5-0 in home games this season. The closest game was a 54-53 win against Temple on Jan. 2.

-Doris Yon

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