Women's hoops opens conference schedule tonight

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 11:19 p.m.

Florida's Marshae Dotson likes to prove people wrong.

So when the SEC's women's basketball coaches picked the Gators to finish 11th in the SEC in a preseason poll, Dotson could only smirk.

"I like when they disrespect us like that," Florida's junior forward said. "It's more motivation for us."

The surging Gators (11-4) get their first chance to do just that when they open their SEC season at Kentucky (6-8) tonight at 7. Florida enters SEC play on a seven-game winning streak and fresh off the team's first road win of the season, a 68-54 triumph at Temple on Saturday.

"I think we're better than we've been before," junior guard Kim Critton said. "Going into the SEC, we're a lot more prepared and willing to perform in that situation."

The Gators' current win streak is their longest since the 2005-06 season, a campaign that saw the Gators go 8-6 in the league. While most outsiders aren't expecting that kind of success from Florida this season, the Gators are hoping to prove them wrong.

"This group of girls we have now has a great chemistry going on," Critton said. "We all love each other and we're trying to win one championship. We're trying to do it as a whole and that's what I like about us."

Florida will welcome back head coach Amanda Butler to the sideline tonight. Butler missed the Gators' win at Temple last weekend to be with her grandmother, who passed away late Saturday night in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. In her absence, assistant Susie Gardner had taken over as acting head coach. That is a familiar spot for Gardner, who spent 13 years as a head coach at Austin Peay and Arkansas.

"We're playing exceptional basketball," Gardner said. "I don't think the team could be any more confident heading into SEC play than we are right now."

Gardner and the Gators admit that winning at Temple was a major confident boost. Florida had been 0-3 on the road previously this season.

"We're capable of doing anything if we put our mind to it," junior Sha Brooks said. "We're very excited to go into SEC and play Kentucky."

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