UF women get test from Auburn

Florida coach Amanda Butler watches closely during the Gators' game against Alabama on Jan. 19.

Steven H. Keys/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 12:05 a.m.

A tough loss can destroy your season if you let it, or it can spur you to reach deep within and find your true mettle.

The latter certainly seems to be the case for the Florida Gators, who have rebounded from a 73-72, double-overtime road loss to Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas on Jan. 29 with a pair of impressive SEC wins heading into tonight's conference matchup with Auburn in the O'Connell Center at 7.

As a result, the Gators (15-8, 5-5) find themselves not only shooting for a season-high third straight SEC victory against the Tigers (11-13, 3-8), but with a win, would move above the .500 mark in league play for the first time this season.

With just five regular-season games remaining, that bodes well for a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations.

The Gators responded to the tough loss to the Razorbacks by knocking off LSU in Baton Rouge — something they last did in 1996 — by a 73-64 score before returning home and dismantling Ole Miss, 84-55, posting their largest margin of victory in an SEC game since 2001.

“The LSU game obviously was giant for us, not just winning but winning how we had to win, the spirit we had to prepare with and the confidence we had to prepare with going into that ballgame,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “I think we all knew when that game was over with that we had put things back in our hands.”

The win over LSU looks even more impressive after the Tigers bounced back to stun first-place Kentucky, 61-51, Sunday, ending the Wildcats' run as the only SEC team without a league loss.

The surge has been led by 6-4 senior center Azania Stewart, who followed her first double-double of the season (12 points, 10 rebounds) against LSU with a season-high 14 points against the Rebels. She also blocked six shots in the two wins.

Senior guard Lanita Bartley had 12 points against LSU and followed with her first career double-double against Ole Miss, scoring a game-high 17 points and tying her career high with 10 rebounds, while senior forward Ndidi Madu also had 12 points against LSU and scored eight points, grabbed eight rebounds and tied her career high with four assists against OIe Miss.

“I think it goes back to how we are preparing,” Butler said. “You cannot fake confidence. If you don't really have it, it's going to show up. They're earning it, and they deserve these wins.”

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