UF women's basketball set for SEC play


Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.

The UF women's basketball team has been involved with four doubleheaders during the regular season, but Thursday night in the O'Connell Center will showcase the ultimate back-to-back event for Gators fans.

Having wrapped up the non-conference portion of its regular-season schedule, No. 18 Florida turns its undivided attention to Southeastern Conference action, which opens league-wide Thursday.

The Gators play host to Mississippi State (12-2), with tip-off moved to 5 p.m. so as not to conflict with fans who also want to watch the Gator football team battle Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship football game that is slated to kickoff at 8:17 p.m. Immediately following the basketball game, the O’Connell Center will become one of three places on campus open to fans wanting to watch the football game.

Four large video screens will broadcast the game inside the O'Connell Center.

"Thursday is obviously going to be a special day for all Gators, having an opportunity to come out and see us play and then following that up with the football team playing for a national championship that night," said Gator head coach Amanda Butler, a UF graduate. "There's going to be a lot of excitement kicking off the SEC season and I know that our players will be ready.

"As an SEC competitor, this is the most fun time of the season. You hope to see your intensity level elevate in practice an on the floor. We have a huge test on Thursday against Mississippi State. I think they are probably one of the best teams in the SEC and one of the best teams that get the least amount of recognition for being one of the best teams in the SEC."

Florida enters Thursday’s game riding a program-record 14-game winning streak. The Gators eclipsed the previous win-streak mark in its 75-56 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 30 in the State Farm Classic championship game. The Gators also sport a nine-game home winning streak, which includes an 8-0 record this season in the O’Connell Center, where the run is tied for the fourth-longest in program

history.

Mississippi State opened the 2008-09 season winning its first 11 games to tie the program record for the best start in its history. The tight 80-73 loss to then-No. 15 Maryland in College Park halted the run.

"The toughest thing about Mississippi State is that they are just as athletic and just as aggressive as we are, individually and as a whole," Butler said. "That's going to pose a tremendous challenge for us because we always feel like we have a little bit of an edge in that we're going to be the most aggressive team on the floor and that's going to be tough for us to be more aggressive than Mississippi State. That's

their style of play, too. The key for us is to play just as aggressively as we always do, but we have to play a smart ball game, we have to be sharp, precise and we have to do everything with a purpose."

Florida and Mississippi State both average 76 points per game, which is tied for the second most in the SEC this season. Only Auburn — UF’s next opponent — lights up the scoreboard more frequently, tallying 81 points per outing.

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