Gators don't want season to end in this tourney

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Here's an unexpected commentary on Florida entering the SEC women's basketball tournament today: The Gators are hot.


UF's opener

· Who: Florida (8-21, 2-12 SEC) vs. No. 6 Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7)

· When: Tonight, 9:30

· Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Place, Duluth, Ga.

· On air: AM-850, Sun Sports

Since Carolyn Peck's firing on Feb. 12, Florida has won two of three, including Sunday's impressive, 83-79, win over Kentucky in the O'Connell Center. The 11th-seed Gators (8-21, 2-12 SEC), hope to carry that momentum into tonight's 9:30 p.m. game against sixth-seeded Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7) at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in suburban Atlanta.

"That's the plan," Peck said. "I don't want this to end anytime soon."

The Gators, who sent their lame-duck coaching staff out on a win Sunday in their last home game, will now try to extend their season. The Gators only chance to make the NCAA Tournament is to earn an automatic bid by winning the SEC Tournament, a monumental task given four of the top 12 teams in The Associated Press top 25 are from the SEC.

Still, Florida believes.

"Our goal is to win the SEC (Tournament)," said Sha Brooks, who is coming off a 28-point outing against Kentucky. "Hopefully we can carry it on."

The Gators are anxious to get another crack at the Bulldogs after nearly knocking them off Feb. 11 in the O'Connell Center. In that game, Florida erased a 16-point, second-half deficit to tie the game with under two minutes left before falling, 79-74.

Peck was fired the next day. But Florida responded by ending a 13-game losing streak with a 66-64 win at Alabama. Florida then lost, 78-62, at Auburn before defeating Kentucky this past weekend.

"We're going to keep this rolling because this team has a lot of heart," senior Briana Phillips said. "We haven't quit and we're not going to."

Should Florida win tonight, the Gators would face third-seeded Vanderbilt Friday at 9:30 p.m. Florida also played the Commodores tough, leading 33-28 at the half before losing 82-69 in Nashville on Jan. 14.

Nonetheless, Peck believes her team can become a force now that the Gators have seen what it takes to win.

"I think the thing our team can take from (the Kentucky game) is they've shown to themselves what they're capable of doing," Peck said. "Now, the door's open. What we've seen in every SEC tournament is that there's always one team that comes in and surprises people. Why can't that be us?"

Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or

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