UF women win opener of holiday classic over Charleston Southern

Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 12:10 a.m.

Behind a team-high 20 points from senior guard Jordan Jones, junior forward Jennifer George's third straight double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) and a pivotal 16-0 second-half run, the Florida women's basketball team improved to 8-3 on the season with an 83-59 win over Charleston Southern on Tuesday night in the opening round of the 21st Annual Gator Holiday Classic.

George, who scored all 19 of her points in the first half on 9-of-9 shooting, jump-started the Gator offense from the opening tip, scoring 13 of UF's first 17 points as Florida took a quick 17-6 lead six minutes into the game.

UF led by as many as 14 points, 26-12, before the Buccaneers (6-4) fought back behind the play of redshirt junior forward Rachelle Coward, who led all scorers with 21 points, and 5-5 point guard Helen Terry (12 points) to trim the lead to 42-34 at the break.

Charleston Southern, which never led in the game, got as close as 50-46 with 15:42 remaining before the Gators responded by turning up the defense and holding the Buccaneers scoreless for the next nine minutes-plus. Meanwhile, the UF offense scored 16 unanswered points to build the lead to 20, 66-46, and coasted from there before an O'Connell Center crowd of 649.

“I was really pleased with the second half and the first part of the first half,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought we had some defensive lapses where we kind of locked up and weren't determined to play the type of defense we've been practicing, but I also thought we did a great job of coming back and making adjustments and really applying those adjustments and also regaining control of the tempo.”

The Gators set season highs for field goal percentage (51.7, 31-of-60) and assists (22), the latter keyed by sophomore guard Jaterra Bond's game-high nine assists. UF also had 13 steals and blocked eight shots, five by 6-4 senior center Azania Stewart and three by George, en route to holding the Buccaneers to just 36.5 percent (23-of-63) from the field.

“It all starts with defense,” said Jones. “I think we got a couple of stops where we could run out in transition and get some easy points, and that's kind of the basketball we want to play.”

UF also enjoyed a 30-4 advantage in bench scoring, with sophomore guard Brittany Shine, who was the MVP of last year's tournament, accounting for almost half that total with 14 points in 14 minutes of action to join Jones and George in double figures. Redshirt senior Ndidi Madu added a season-high seven points and seven rebounds.

“That's what we expect,” Butler said. “We expect to be able to go to our bench and get production.”

The Gators will try and win their 17th Gator Holiday Classic title tonight when they square off against Duquesne (10-1), who blasted Maine 76-38 in the tournament opener.

Charleston Southern will take on the Black Bears (3-8) at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Gators and the Dukes at 7.

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