Vols extend UF's misery


Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

It hasn't been a joyous few weeks for the Florida women's basketball team.

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The Associated Press

Since the Christmas weekend, the Gators have suffered the following setbacks: Three players have left the team. The Gators lost to Temple, 85-80 in overtime after blowing a 10-point lead in the final minutes of regulation. Florida began SEC play last week with a 32-point loss at Georgia.

Matters didn't improve Thursday night when revenge-minded Tennessee came to the O'Connell Center.

The Lady Vols got 21 points from senior Sidney Spencer and 19 from sophomore Candace Parker to defeat Florida, 80-58, before a crowd of 2,203.

Tennessee opened the game on a 25-0 run and led by as many as 34 in the first half before Florida made it respectable in the second half.

It was Florida's fourth straight loss and dropped the Gators to 6-11 and 0-2 in the SEC.

"We just got to move on and stick together," said Gators sophomore Marshae Dotson, who had a team-high 20 points. "We've got to keep each other up and keep each other confident."

The blowout was a stark contrast to the last two meetings between these teams. Florida took Tennessee to overtime in the last meeting in the O'Connell Center on Feb. 3, 2005, before losing 91-82. The Gators then stunned the Vols, 95-93, last year at Thompson Boling Arena, for their first win in Knoxville.

That added to Tennessee's fire Thursday.

"We knew we needed to come in and take care of business and not overlook them," said Parker, who added nine rebounds and three blocks in just 19 minutes. "The previous two years we've had a pretty good game with them."

Not this time. The Vols stretched their lead to 43-9 late in the first half on a Parker lay-in.

But Florida refused to give up, closing the half on a 17-1 run over the final 4:47 to draw to 44-26 at the half.

"I think we were a little overwhelmed," Gators coach Carolyn Peck said. "I know this from working at Tennessee, a lot of times you're on your heels to start with until a few things happen. That (run to end the first half) gave our players some confidence. I think they did better in the second half."

Tennessee won its ninth straight and improved to 15-1 and 2-0 in the SEC.

"I thought we played in spurts," Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "We had some great spurts and we had some series that were not up to the standard we set."

The Gators have now lost their first two SEC games by a combined 54 points. The team is left with just nine members after sophomore Jessica Jackson and freshmen LaToya Bullard and LaKendra Phillips recently left the team, citing homesickness.

Dotson said losing the three players, including the 6-foot-3 Jackson, had "a pretty big effect."

Florida got 16 points and nine rebounds from Depree Bowden and six points and nine rebounds from freshman Sharielle Smith.

Smith said the Gators weren't intimidated by Tennessee.

"I don't really think we were in awe," Smith said. "I think it had to do with just a slow start. I think our team knew what they were bringing."

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