UF WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Peck has been there


Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 1:50 a.m.

There are several things Florida women's basketball coach Carolyn Peck never anticipated happening in her first season.

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Freshman Brittany Davis is averaging 14.7 minutes per game.

She has had to deal with key players missing games for reasons varying from injury to suspension. Now, Peck is having to deal with a more troubling issue: The Gators' 0-4 start in the SEC.

Peck hasn't had to deal with losing streaks as a college coach.

At Purdue, the longest losing streak Peck suffered was just two games in her first season (1997-98).

Peck did suffer losing spells as the head coach of the Orlando Miracle, a team she had a 44-52 record with in three seasons, and she knew what it was like to go through extended periods without wins.

In 2000, her second season, the Miracle lost seven in a row toward the end of the schedule.

"I've been through a stretch like this with the pros," Peck said. "At that time, we were going through a lot of injuries, had to play with different personnel and that kind of stuff. The score differential wasn't quite as severe as it is right now."

The Gators have never suffered consecutive blowout losses like this either.

They have been outscored 357-232, a margin of 125 points, during their four-game losing streak.

To put the margin of defeat in perspective, during the program's longest losing streak - seven games in 1980 - Florida combined to lose by 115 points.

"We keep track of all those scores because there will be a day when we are a talented team and that outcome will be different," Peck said. "What you want to do is you want to experience it and you don't act like a loss doesn't matter because it does. I hate losing more than anybody, and so does our team. It's a feeling that you get inside and you go out and work hard so you don't want to experience that feeling again."

Peck said the biggest difference between the present losing streak compared to the seven in a row she lost with the Miracle is the inexperience on the team.

A pair of freshmen - Sarah Lowe and Bernice Mosby - not only lead the team in scoring but also in minutes. Lowe is averaging a team-high 36.2 minutes, which would easily set the record of average minutes by a UF freshman if she continues this pace.

Brandi McCain set the record her freshman season by averaging 33.8 minutes in the 1998-99 season. The fewest minutes Lowe has played this season is 27 against South Florida, a game which she fouled out.

Mosby is second on the team, averaging 26.5 minutes, and the other three freshmen are seeing plenty of playing time. Danielle Santos is averaging 22.4 minutes and Dalila Eshe and Brittany Davis average 16.9 and 14.7, respectively.

Given the youth of the team, Peck realizes there will be a learning curve this season.

"Going through a (losing) stretch right now would be extremely discouraging if we had a very experienced team going through this because you just know better," Peck said. "We have a young team that doesn't know better because they haven't experienced it before."

LOOKING FOR A JUMP START: One way for Florida to avoid such blowout losses is to better its offensive production. And Peck said there is one element missing from the offense.

"Confidence - that's the biggest thing," Peck said. "Last night (against Tennessee) in the first half, we were passing up shots. ... I don't think I've ever had a team where I had to say, `Shoot the ball.' Everybody has the green light to shoot the ball."

The Gators' scoring average has dropped to a season-low 69.2 points a game, which ranks 10th in the SEC. Their overall shooting percentage now is at 38.6, 11th in the SEC.

In SEC games, Florida is averaging just 58 points and 10.5 assists and shooting 34.1 percent.

On the flipside, SEC teams are averaging 89.2 points and shooting 48.8 percent against the Gators.

V WATCH: All-American center Vanessa Hayden remains on the bench, but her return to the lineup may be soon.

"She could be ready on Thursday or she could not be," Peck said. "She's completely day-to-day right now."

Hayden, who broke her left leg and sprained her ankle Dec. 7, was in uniform Sunday. The Gators were expecting Hayden to take the full eight weeks to recover from the fractured fibula, but her recovery appears to be ahead of schedule.

"Vanessa's doing great," Peck said. "She's doing more and more in practice every day. She warmed up with the team (Sunday), knowing that we weren't going to play her in the game."

Florida is 3-5 without Hayden.

BASELINE NOTES: For the first time in her UF career, forward Courtney Cooper was not in the starting lineup Sunday. The senior injured her hamstring at Arkansas and played just six minutes against Tennessee. ... Thursday's game against LSU will be the third consecutive in which Florida will play against a coach recently coming off a significant landmark victory. Against Arkansas, Gary Blair had his 400th career win in the game just prior to Florida, and Tennessee's Pat Summitt became the first female coach to reach 800 career victories earlier in the week. LSU's Sue Gunter won her 400th game at the school Jan. 16. ... Peck will celebrate her 37th birthday Wednesday.

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

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