Gators rout Bethune-Cookman

Published: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9:59 p.m.

Eight was more than enough for the Florida Gators in their season opener Friday.

Placing seven players in double-digit scoring led by a 15-point, 17-rebound effort from freshman Ronni Williams, UF opened its 40th season of women's basketball in style with an impressive 93-65 win over Bethune-Cookman before an O'Connell Center crowd of 1,179.

“It was a fantastic team effort,” coach Amanda Butler said. “I was just really proud of the way our minutes were distributed, our points were distributed, and for the most part our rebounds were distributed except for the giant bunch that Ronni got for us.”

Williams, the first McDonald's All-American to sign with the Florida women's program, was 7-of-9 from the field and had five blocked shots to go with her 17 boards, a program record for a UF player in a season opener.

“I was just excited to be out there,” Williams said. “I was just ready to play my first game as a Gator in front of my family with this great group of young ladies and an awesome coach. It was a blessing.”

Florida was without sophomore Christin Mercer, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. That knocked UF's nine-player roster down to eight, but there were times it must have seemed like all eight were on the court at once to the Wildcats.

B-CU was within striking distance at the half, 48-38, but a harassing UF defense started taking its toll, leading to easy transition baskets for the Gators as they outscored the Wildcats 45-27 after intermission.

Florida forced 27 B-CU turnovers and had 14 steals, finishing with 20 fast-break points to none for the visitors.

“They were able to push the ball very quickly to get into their transition,” B-CU coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said. “Not only were they able to score, but a lot of times they were able to generate fouls from us, which was a double whammy because we were giving up layups and they were scoring from the free-throw line.”

Williams wasn't the only new player to make an impressive debut.

Sophomore transfers Antoinette Bannister and Cassie Peoples both had strong initial outings as well, with Bannister scoring 13 points and Peoples adding 12, including a perfect 6-for-6 night from the charity stripe to lead a solid 25-of-33 UF effort (75.8 percent) for the game.

“They're all big-play players and they're all capable of impacting the game on either end, in the paint, from behind the three-point line and from the free-throw line,” Butler said of UF's three newcomers.

Senior forward Lily Svete tied her career-high with 15 points, highlighted by a 4-for-6 effort from 3-point range before fouling out with 5:13 left.

Sophomore guards January Miller and Carlie Needles each had 11 points and senior point guard Jaterra Bonds had 10 and added eight assists and five steals, both game-high marks.

Redshirt junior Kayla Lewis (six points) was the lone Gator not in double figures, but she was limited to 17 minutes of action with foul trouble and took just two shots from the field.

Game-high scoring honors went to B-CU senior Chastity Rene Taylor, who had 22 points.

The Gators shot 46.2 percent (29-of-62) from the field including 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from 3-point range en route to scoring more points than they did in any game all of last year (89).

“You always feel good as a team when you feel like everyone contributed big minutes, big plays, knocking down free throws and those sorts of things that we know are going to be crucial for us,” Butler said. “I was really proud of the way we handled some adversity, too, with some early foul trouble having so few people. I thought we did a really good job of playing tough and just hanging in there.”

UF returns to the O'Dome to face UNF Sunday at 2 p.m.

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