UF women's hoops can make big step tonight


Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 12:33 a.m.

There are plenty of reasons for the Florida women's basketball team to be excited.

The Gators have won nine of their last 10 games, eight of which have been by double-figures. Florida, 13-5 overall, is tied for fourth in the SEC with a 2-1 mark and is even receiving votes in this week's AP top 25.

Now the Gators know it's time to take the next step: Florida wants to beat a team of national prominence. It'll get that chance tonight at 7 when No. 17 Georgia (15-3, 2-2) visits the O'Connell Center.

"I think this is going to be a great indication of where we are," coach Amanda Butler said. "It will be a great indicator for us and what the rest of our SEC season is going to look like. I think we're going to be ready. I think our kids are very confident."

Why wouldn't they be? Florida has lost just one time in the last seven weeks — a 60-58 setback at Kentucky on Jan. 10.

But the wins haven't come against big-time opponents. Only three of Florida's last nine wins have come against teams with an RPI in the top 100. The most impressive was a 68-54 win at No. 61 Temple on Jan. 5.

The Bulldogs will offer the Gators a chance to see just how far they have come this season.

"It will tell us where we are," sophomore Jennifer Mossor said. "We've played some good teams that we didn't do so well against. This will tell us where we are right now in the SEC."

History does not bode well for the Gators. Florida has dropped seven straight to Georgia, and none of the games have been close. The Bulldogs' last six wins over the Gators have come by an average of 26 points. That includes an 89-57 Georgia win in Athens and a 77-54 win in the O'Connell Center last year.

"It was a nightmare," Florida's Depree Bowden said of those games. "We just didn't play very well."

Butler has taken steps to ensure her team doesn't get intimidated by the Bulldogs.

"We've talked about not caring about what the name is on the jersey," Butler said. "It's about us and how we're going to execute our game plan. We're talented enough to do that. We have the pieces of the puzzle. If we play Florida basketball, we can make good things happen. It doesn't matter who we are playing."

The Gators will also be looking to snap an 11-game losing streak to ranked opponents that dates back to their 95-93 overtime win at No. 5 Tennessee two years ago. Florida lost its only game against a ranked opponent this season when it fell to No. 20 Florida State, 81-78, on Nov. 23 in the O'Connell Center.

That was Florida's only home loss this season. The Gators have compiled an impressive 11-1 mark in the O-Dome this season. They say comfort is the reason why.

"We get a lot of energy from our crowd," Mossor said. "We've had some pretty good crowds, which is motivating. We're just really comfortable there."

Winning at home is also something Butler has emphasized with her team.

"She says, ‘You gotta win at home.’ ’’ Mossor said.

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