Gators play host to holiday tournament
Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.
The Florida Gators will be looking for some early Christmas cheer in the form of a championship trophy when the 23rd Annual Gator Holiday Classic gets underway in the O'Connell Center today.
At O'Connell Center
La Salle vs. FIU, 4:30 p.m.
Florida vs. Tennessee State, 7 p.m. (AM-850)
“It's always a fun tournament and something that we look forward to,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “We've been doing it forever and ever, but I think that our fans love it, and I know that our players do.
“It's a unique opportunity to compete for a championship on your home court. Even though it's not an end-of-the-year championship or anything like that, it's fun to have a chance to play for the big trophy and be able to say 'We were the best in the field.' To be able to do that in front of the great fans that we have is kind of altogether a good thing.”
Play gets underway when Florida International (3-5) and La Salle (3-5) meet in the tourney opener at 4:30 p.m., with host Florida (7-3) squaring off against Tennessee State (3-8) at 7.
Action concludes Saturday with two more games at 4:30 and 7 p.m., with UF, which is seeking its 19th tournament title at the event, slated to play in the nightcap.
The Gators, who have won a season-high three games in a row, are coming off back-to-back scoring outputs of more than 100 points for just the second time in program history (1984-85 season).
After trouncing Troy on the road, 104-74, on Dec. 4, UF returned to the court Tuesday night for the first time in 13 days and sank St. Francis, 105-71, at home.
“We have so many players that are offensively capable,” said redshirt senior forward Lily Svete, who became just the 10th player in program history to record 100 career 3-pointers in Tuesday's win while being one of a record-tying seven Gators scoring in double figures.
“It's great to have so many scorers and run in transition and have a really fun game. I think these last two games have been the most fun of any games I've played in, just in terms of the scoring offense and everybody being excited.”
Redshirt sophomore Cassie Peoples has started each of the last two games at point guard, and her play has had a lot to do with UF's offensive explosion.
“I think we've definitely shown the past couple of games that we're getting in a groove with each other and finding a little bit of our identity,” Peoples said. “It all started with defense for us. We really tried to start those games with a higher level of intensity, and I think it's paid off for us on the offensive end as well.”
The first 500 fans in attendance will receive Gator Holiday Classic T-shirts, and anyone who donates a toy to the Toys for Tots Program will receive free admission to both games today.