No place but up in SEC for UF
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 1:04 a.m.
The start of the SEC schedule is far from ideal for the Florida women's basketball team.
vs. Florida (8-7, 0-3).
The Gators are winless in the SEC for their first three-game losing streak of the season. The past two losses have stood out the most since they were by 43 and 39 points, respectively.
Another blowout loss may be the case today when Florida (8-7, 0-3) plays fifth-ranked Tennessee (13-3, 2-0) in the O'Connell Center at 3 p.m.
"It's been kind of frustrating, but at the same time, it's like a wake-up call," UF guard Tamia Williams said. "(The SEC) is a tough conference and every night, you've got to bring your A game."
The Gators have started 0-3 in the SEC four other times, the last coming in 1988. Twice an 0-3 start resulted in a 1-8 record and the other two times concluded with a winless SEC season.
"The outside perception of what our mentality is comes from fans and sports writers and the media," first-year UF coach Carolyn Peck said. "We don't have the mentality that we're in a hole. We have a mentality that there are things we have to improve on and our focus is on us and not on who we've got to play or who's doing what. We're not taking the victim role here by any means."
There are reasons for the perception.
The losses to Georgia (105-62) and Arkansas (84-45) are among the worst back-to-back defeats in school history, and the Gators are hoping to avoid another distinction today.
Florida has never lost three games in a row by more than 35 points. The worst three-game stretch in school history was the start of the 1979-80 season, when it opened the season with losses to Mercer, Mississippi State and South Carolina by 34, 32 and 48 points, respectively. That season also saw the longest losing streak in school history at seven games and ended with a 10-19 record.
The Vols handed the Gators their worst SEC loss with a 118-44 drubbing in 1980. Tennessee also held the previous record for most points scored by an opponent in the O-Dome (103 in 2001) before Georgia passed it last week.
But Peck does not want her players to consume themselves with Tennessee's legacy, which includes six NCAA titles.
"Tennessee is a very good basketball team, but they put five players on the floor just like we do," Peck said. "If you're going to get caught up in the mystique, why step out on the floor and play? If you're caught up in the mystique and you're intimidated before the game started, you're already defeated."
Avoiding the first four-game losing streak since 2000 - the same season when Florida last failed to make the NCAA Tournament - will be difficult. In the past three UF-UT games, the Gators have lost by an average margin of almost 25 points.
The Gators schedule remains daunting after today. Florida's next game is against No. 2 LSU at home Thursday night.
"You've got to stay positive; you've got to look at the positive things that we've been doing," Williams said. "Coach Peck always reminds us of the positive things we've been working on and she doesn't just focus on the bad things. ... To get through this, we have to believe we are a good team and know that no matter how it looks, you have to stay strong."
Peck believes her team will get out of its present hole, and others feel the same.
"Certainly she will get the job done," said UT coach Pat Summitt, Peck's former boss. "We're all challenged when we're in those situations to be patient and also persistent. I certainly think that Carolyn knows how to take these young players and really bring them along. It's hard, in this league, to do so, but Carolyn can get the job done. She's proven that time and time again."
Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or email@example.com.
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