Women’s hoops opens SEC slate today vs. Kentucky

Published: Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 10:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 10:47 p.m.

Women’s hoops opens SEC slate today vs. Kentucky


Florida Gators (10-3, 0-0 SEC) host the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats (11-2, 0-0 SEC)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Stephen C. O’Connell Center

Today's Southeastern Conference opener against sixth-ranked Kentucky offers the Florida Gators more than just a chance to pick up a big win.

It's also an opportunity for UF to make an early statement in this year's SEC race when the two teams tip off at the O'Connell Center at 1 p.m.

“We've talked about it for a long time and will continue to for as long as I'm here – the opportunity to win championships in this league,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “Kentucky is one of those teams that, if you're serious about that, you've got to get through them. There's no getting around them. They're very good.”

Florida (10-3) will certainly be put to the test by the Wildcats (11-2), whose current ranking matches their highest ever.

Kentucky began the season 10-0 before losing at No. 3 Notre Dame, 92-83. The Wildcats bounced back to trounce Samford, 90-61, but were upset Wednesday on the road by Middle Tennessee State, 70-58.

Florida has gone 3-0 over the holiday break behind a new defensive attitude that has paid dividends on both ends of the court. UF pounded Samford, 81-56, in its last outing Wednesday after topping Charleston Southern and Duquesne en route to winning the 2011 Gator Holiday Classic.

Today's contest could come down to a battle of wills defensively. UF has held its last three opponents under 60 points, but the Gators will need their best effort to top the Wildcats, whose pressure defense has been nicknamed “40 minutes of dread.” Kentucky is holding its opponents to an average of 56.8 points a game and has recorded 205 steals, tied for second nationally.

The 'Cats are led by junior guard A'dia Mathies (15.4 points, 3.5 steals a game) and freshman guard Bria Gross (12.3 points).

UF will counter with junior forward Jennifer George, the reigning SEC Player of the Week who has five straight double-doubles and leads the Gators in both scoring (13.8 points) and rebounding (9.9), and senior guard Jordan Jones (13.5 points), who has a team-high 31 three-pointers.

“Everything that we've done to this point, we've got to find another level,” Butler said. “We've got to find ways to be more mature, more dedicated, more committed, more intense. They are quick and athletic, and we’re going to have to be prepared for everything they bring.”

Today is Family 4-Pack Sunday. Fans can purchase four general admission tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $20.

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