FLORIDA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Morehead part of answer to rebuilding
Published: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 1:18 a.m.
Florida senior Vanessa Hayden can't imagine what it must be like to be Tashia Morehead right now.
Morehead's first season with the Gators has been a pressure-packed fast break. Morehead has started all 17 games for the Gators and has been asked to play a huge role after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College in the summer.
It has been an up-and-down ride for the junior forward.
"She's taken it like a champion," said Hayden, who herself never started a game in her first season with the Gators. "Me, I probably would have had a breakdown and had to leave the team. She's handling it very well being one of the go-to players on the team. "
Morehead comes into tonight's game against South Carolina (8-7, 0-3) in the O'Connell Center after her most inspiring performance of the year. Morehead netted career highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday's 83-73 win at then-No. 11 Georgia.
Morehead snapped out of a horrendous shooting slump by sinking 6-of-11 from the floor including 2-of-3 from behind the three-point line.
"I think she was in a little slump but I don't think it bothered her," sophomore guard Danielle Santos said. "Like all good shooters, you're not going to be perfect every night. She just kept working hard and had an awesome game against Georgia."
In the five games prior to Sunday, Morehead hit just 23.6 percent of her shots, including 23.1 percent from the three-point line. In two games - a Dec. 30 loss to Baylor and a Jan. 15 loss to LSU - Morehead was a combined 0-for-22 from the field, including 11 missed three-pointers.
"In order for this team to win, she needs to perform," Hayden said. "She came in and did what she needed to do extra."
That included extra shooting after practice. It was no surprise to teammates and coaches, who describe Morehead as a basketball junkie. But it showed Morehead was looking for something, anything, to shake her funk from the outside.
"I think she stayed confident," Santos said. "But she did work in the gym more trying to get her confidence back up to where it needed to be."
Morehead's career-best performance Sunday reminded everyone again she is a shooter. Hit or miss, she will always keep shooting.
In her final JC game last year, Morehead scored 46 points to lead GCCC to a win over Western Nebraska in the National Junior College Tournament title game.
But her inconsistency from the floor has shown the transition to Division I has been an adjustment less than smooth.
"You only avoid the ups and downs by developing confidence," Florida coach Carolyn Peck said. "You can only gain confidence through experience. With the experience she's had, I'm looking for Tashia to be more consistent."
Morehead is averaging 27.8 minutes and is the team's third-leading scorer (11.6 ppg) behind Hayden (19.0) and sophomore Bernice Mosby (13.0).
Although she's only shooting 34.4 percent on the year, Morehead has brought more to the team. Her ability to rebound (4.9 per game), play defense and penetrate have been key in Florida's big improvement over last season. Morehead is also one of the team's top free throw shooters, hitting 80 percent from the line, including 16-for-16 in conference games.
Morehead, a quiet and humble player, believes she is adjusting well to this level.
"I think I'm doing a pretty good job of handling it," she said. "I still have some things I need to work on. I don't think I've hit a wall, but I feel like I'm getting more adjusted."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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