UF ATHLETICS NOTEBOOK
Florida women's basketball set for SEC tournament play
Men's tennis snaps four-match losing streak with first SEC win of season.
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.
When the regular season has not gone as well as hoped, the postseason offers a chance to start anew.
Such is the case for the Florida women's basketball team, which opens play at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., Thursday at noon.
UF (17-13, 6-10), the No. 9 seed, will square off against No. 8 seed Arkansas (18-11, 6-10), a team the Gators beat 69-58 last Thursday in their final home game in the O'Connell Center.
Sunday, the Razorbacks bounced back at home with a 93-52 drubbing of last-place Ole Miss while UF dropped its regular-season finale at No. 14 South Carolina, 67-56.
“Obviously we're excited for tournament time,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “It's the best tournament in the country, and I think when you look at the matchups and everything that has happened the past few weeks in our league, there's just not going to be any other place to be to watch great women's basketball.
“I think our game with Arkansas is a big part of that as well. They did a great job against Ole Miss and I'm sure had a lot of fire in their bellies after leaving Gainesville. It was a tough matchup. It always seems to be real intense between us and Arkansas.”
Thursday's contest will be the 129th career game for All-SEC post player Jennifer George, UF's only senior, tying her for the No. 1 spot all-time with ex-Gator Tamara Stocks (1997-2001).
With this being the first postseason experience for true freshmen Sidney Moss, Christin Mercer and January Miller as well as redshirt freshman Carlie Needles, Butler will look to her most experienced starters – George, junior point guard Jaterra Bonds and junior forward Lily Svete – for leadership.
“The tough thing about our team is this is one of those things where our youth comes in, our experience comes in, and we've really got to rely on Jennifer and Jaterra and Lily,” Butler said. “They have really got to step up from a teammate standpoint and be able to get their teammates ready for what their mindset has to be.”
The winner of Thursday's matchup draws No. 1 seed and eighth-ranked Tennessee (23-6, 14-2) in the quarterfinals Friday at noon. In their only meeting during the regular season, Florida took the Lady Vols to overtime in the O-Dome before losing a 78-75 thriller. First-round and quarterfinal games will air Thursday and Friday on Fox Sports South/Sun Sports. Saturday's semifinals will be carried by ESPNU at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., with Sunday's championship final on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.
In addition, UF radio coverage will be provided by The Star 99.5 FM.
The Gators (7-4, 1-0) presented first-year head coach Bryan Shelton with his first SEC win in thrilling fashion, rallying for a 4-3 upset of No. 11 Texas A&M at Linder Stadium Sunday in the conference opener for both teams.
The win ended a four-match losing streak for the Gators, who won their first six matches of the year but had not tasted victory since knocking off instate rival FSU, 5-2, in Tallahassee Feb. 9.
“We had a great day,” Shelton said. “It's always nice to win, but certainly to win in the conference is also very good.
“Texas A&M presented a lot of challenges for us. Our guys just hung tough. We lost the doubles point, but we were able to bounce back in singles and compete hard.”
UF travels to face South Carolina Friday, the first of five straight SEC road matches for the Gators.