UF all-sports notebook: Women's hoops will be tested

Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

Now is the time for Florida’s women’s basketball team find out how tough it is.

The Gators’ 81-65 loss to No. 6 Auburn Sunday was just UF’s second loss of the season, and it snapped a program-record 15-game winning streak. The 19th-ranked Gators (15-2, 1-1 SEC) have a chance at redemption Thursday when they travel to Columbia to play South Carolina.

Despite the Gamecocks' 8-7 record, UF assistant coach Susie Gardner said her team faces a defense that could give it fits Thursday night.

“South Carolina is playing tremendous defense right now,” Gardner said at Tuesday’s all-sports news conference. (USC head coach) Dawn (Staley) has instilled in them a defensive philosophy in South Carolina that I haven’t seen in the last five years.”

As UF prepares, it will do so without Jennifer Mossor, the team’s fourth-leading scorer (9.1 points a game). The junior guard suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in the Gators' 80-66 victory over Mississippi State on Jan. 8 and is out for the season.

Without Mossor, Gardner said the Gators plan to switch up the guard play of senior Sha Brooks and junior Lonnika Thompson. UF first experimented with putting Brooks at the shooting-guard position, while having Thompson play point guard. Gardner also said there’s a possibility of returning Brooks to the point and having Thompson come off the bench.

Regardless of who starts where, Gardner said the key to a quick turnaround is to play the first four minutes of the game better than UF did against the Auburn. Gardner called the Gators’ hustle early “embarrassing” and said she believes that the poor play against the Tigers could be a motivator for UF as it heads into the heart of SEC play.

“Sometimes you need a loss or a kick in the mouth to get your attention,” she said.

Gymnastics ready for tough start

The No. 1-ranked Gators gymnastics team suffered from a few mistakes in its 196.50-195.075 season-opening victory over No. 9 Oklahoma Friday, but coach Rhonda Faehn said the outcome was what she expected.

Of course a victory was the goal, but Faehn said she was very interested in team chemistry as well as seeing how her squad responded to competing outside of practice.

“We were pleased most with the camaraderie of our team,” Faehn said, “just the overall energy that they displayed. From event to event, right from the start, we had a lot of energy.”

Faehn hopes her team carries that energy into one of the toughest opening stretches in the country. The Gators will compete against four ranked teams – three currently in the top 10 – in their first five matches.

Even with the No. 1 ranking, Faehn said it’s still too early to talk about a national title, but she hopes that the difficult early part of the season will help the Gators in postseason play.

“It definitely helps us prepare,” she said. “We want to take every competition, not only as a learning experience but as a preparation for the SECs, the Regionals and the National Championships."

The Gators are also hoping to get back one of their top floor exercise performers in junior All-American Amanda Castillo. While she did post an impressive score of 9.90 on the balance beam, Castillo sat out the floor exercise because of bursitis in her ankle.

Faehn said Castillo was left out for precautionary measures and could be ready Friday, as UF hosts No. 4 Auburn at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center.

“I would love to see her doing floor this Friday,” she said. “She could have gone last week. It wasn’t a matter of her not being able to go, it’s just a matter of we’re trying to play it smart as a coaching staff.”

Demps recovering

As UF’s track teams prepare for its season debut at the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington, Ky., this weekend, it will be without the fastest high schooler ever.

Star tailback Jeffrey Demps is fresh off a national championship victory, but is resting before he gets into track shape, coach Mike Holloway said Tuesday. Holloway said he expects Demps back by the Jan. 30-31 SEC/Big 12 Challenge in College Station, Texas.

“Jeff is just a phenomenal athlete,” Holloway said.

Demps, who shares the world junior record in the 100m (10.01), has also been named one of 12 top US sprinters/hurdlers to watch in the 2009 season, according to TrackShark.com, the Web site announced Monday.

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