UF women set to tip off at SEC Tournament


Florida women's basketball coach Amanda Butler leads her Gators into their opening-round SEC Tournament game against Auburn today.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.

There will be no waiting around for the Florida Gators on the first day of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Facts

SEC women's tournament

Who: No. 8 seed Florida (18-11) vs. No. 9 seed Auburn
When: Today, 1 p.m.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Gainesville-area radio: 99.5 FM, 104.9 FM
Gainesville-area TV: FSN

No. 8 seed UF (18-11, 8-8 SEC) will face No. 9 seed Auburn (13-16, 5-11 ) in the opening game of the 12-team event today with tip-off scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

“We're excited to play Auburn again even though we know that it's a tough matchup,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “They're playing really good basketball right now.

“We know we have to play our best. Although there's been a lot of basketball all year long, this tournament is something this team has looked forward to, so we're excited to go back to Nashville.”

Florida defeated Auburn, 70-56, in Gainesville on Feb. 9 in the only regular-season meeting between the two teams. The Tigers, however, closed out their regular season with back-to-back wins after coach Nell Fortner, a veteran of 28 years in the coaching ranks who led the U.S. Women's National team to the 2000 Olympic gold medal and also coached the WNBA's Indiana Fever before coming to Auburn in 2004, announced her retirement at the end of the season.

The winner of the UF-Auburn game moves on to face top-seeded, 10th-ranked Kentucky (24-5, 13-3) Friday in the first of four quarterfinal matchups.

While the Wildcats were the regular-season SEC champs, the Gators took them to the wire twice, losing the two contests by a combined eight points. Florida had chances to win both, but lost a 59-56 nail-biter at home, then dropped a 57-52 decision in Lexington.

Right now, though, the last thing Butler wants is for her team to be looking ahead.

“The only thing we've been talking about is Auburn,” she said. “There's not any reason to talk about a run. We've got to play one game, and we've got to beat Auburn. Then maybe we can look back at something a week later and talk about a run, but right now all that matters is beating Auburn.”

While nine of Florida's 11 losses this season were by six points or less, Butler feels her team's maturity with five seniors will help the squad go into the postseason with a positive focus.

“There's certainly been frustrating moments,” she said. “You probably wouldn't be human if you weren't disappointed or frustrated with some of those situations that we've been in. We've been very consistent, and especially at this point, you just have to look at what were the positives of those experiences. I think we've shown a tremendous amount of fight and resilience when a lot of teams would not have in the situations we've been in.

“We all can determine our own fates at this point, so that's what we've got to be focused on — the present moment.”

All SEC Tournament games will be carried live. Thursday's opening-round games will be televised by FSN, with coverage airing on Sun Sports. Friday's quarterfinals will air on Fox Sports Florida, and Saturday's semifinals will air on ESPNU beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday's championship game will be on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.

In related news, UF junior Jennifer George was voted First Team All-SEC and senior Deana Allen was honored as Co-6th Woman of the Year in the coaches' postseason awards announced Wednesday.

George, a 6-foot junior forward, leads the Gators in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg), with the latter mark ranking second in the SEC. She has posted 14 double-doubles, a total that leads the league and ranks 11th nationally.

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