Women's hoops tops No. 21 FSU

Florida guard Jordan Jones celebrates after the Gators beat the Florida State Seminoles on Thursday.

Matt Stamey
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 10:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 10:57 p.m.

Seldom are there big wins this early in the season. But rest assured Florida's 72-58 victory over 21st-ranked Florida State Thursday night before an O'Connell Center crowd of 1,935 definitely qualifies.

Getting a tremendous team effort that included four of five starters scoring in double digits, head coach Amanda Butler's fired-up Gators (2-1) took it to the favored Seminoles (2-2) from the opening tip and never trailed en route to an impressive win that had Butler exchanging high-fives to anybody and everybody within reach afterward.

“Obviously I'm just thrilled to death for our team and in particular our seniors and our post players who worked really, really hard,” Butler said. “They knew they had their hands full, and their coaches were challenging them, telling them that we were still going to bring this battle to the paint, even though that's the toughest place to play.”

As expected, FSU's powerful inside duo of senior preseason All-America Cierra Bravard and talented sophomore Natasha Howard was impressive, combining for 38 of the Seminoles' 58 points and 19 rebounds. But Florida senior Azania Stewart and junior Jennifer George held their own, combining for 32 points, 10 boards and six blocked shots and frustrating Bravard into fouling out with 3:48 left to play.

Florida's guards, meanwhile, were a step too quick for their FSU counterparts, with sophomore point guard Jaterra Bonds enjoying her best game of the season with a 14-point, six-rebound effort and senior Jordan Jones adding 14 points to join George (18 points), who was 9-of-11 from the field, and Stewart (10 points) in double-digits.

While the Gators shot a solid 46.2 percent (29-of-62) from the field, they held FSU to just 35.5 percent (22-of-62). FSU did outrebound Florida, but only by a slim 41-38 margin, and the Gators were the better team on the floor, holding a 17-10 edge in assists, a 9-7 advantage in steals and a 6-1 edge in blocks.

The key segment of the game was the last four minutes of the first half. After UF had taken a 21-8 lead in the game's first eight minutes, the 'Noles roared back behind Bravard and Howard to pull within 27-23 with 4:08 remaining before halftime.

The Gators refused to fold, however, and answered with a 14-4 run keyed by Bonds and Jones to close out the half and take a 41-27 lead into the locker room, from which FSU never recovered.

“It was huge,” Butler said. “When we talk about this team, a lot of times we're talking about them relative to things in the past. I think today was just a giant leap forward for this group, to be able to create a lead with their defense and fend off a very potent offensive team.

“We knew they would make a run at us, but to be able to answer and sustain the effort and sustain the energy, I was really proud of that. This was a great win for us.”

UF closes out its season-opening, four-game homestand against Hampton Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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