UF notebook: Gator women hoops program enjoys week
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
It's always a good sign to be trending upward in the nation's toughest women's basketball league, and that's just what coach Amanda Butler's Florida team is doing.
The Gators (16-6, 6-3) have won their last three SEC games, capped by Sunday's 81-60 road win over Ole Miss, and will try to make it four in a row when they take on Arkansas (15-7, 2-7) Thursday night at 8 in Fayetteville.
The victory over the Rebels finished off a 2-0 week for UF, which defeated Alabama, 75-67, in the O'Connell Center last Thursday, with freshman Ronni Williams earning SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 11 points, five rebounds and three assists and shooting 56.3 percent from the floor in UF's two wins.
“It was a really good week of basketball for us,” Butler said. “To put a couple of wins together in a row is really important this time of year as to just how you feel about yourself, regardless of where you're playing or who you're playing.”
Florida, picked to finish 10th in the SEC in the preseason, sits in a three-way tie for fourth, trailing only first-place, No. 6 South Carolina (20-2, 8-1) as well as No. 8 Tennessee (18-4, 7-2) and No. 19 Texas A&M (17-6, 7-2), who share second.
It's back to the road for the Gators after back-to-back impressive home wins.
UF (4-0, 2-0) will face Kentucky (4-3, 1-2) Friday night at 7 in Lexington and will be looking to continue the week-to-week improvement coach Rhonda Faehn has seen to this point.
With an average score of 197.413, the Gators moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 in this week's GymInfo poll following Friday's 197.875-197.225 home win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma, with the Sooners (197.294) now No. 2.
LSU (197.225), Utah (196.963) and Georgia (196.871) round out the top five.
“It really shows the capabilities of this team,” Faehn said. “It's still early in the season. Heading into Kentucky, this is the midpoint of our regular season, and I spoke to the team about that. I know they're confident in their abilities and their capabilities of doing even better. They know, especially after last year, that it's a process. We're on the right track of getting better every week.”
The defending SEC regular-season and tournament champion Gators open their 2014 campaign this week in Tampa.
UF, ranked No. 3 in the preseason, will take on host USF at 6 p.m. Thursday in the season-opener for both squads, then will stay in the area to play in the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament, playing five games over a three-day span Friday-Sunday highlighted by a Saturday contest against No. 4 Michigan.
The Gators are coming off a season in which they led the nation in wins (58) en route to reaching the Women's College World Series for the fifth time in the last six years under coach Tim Walton.
“It's good to get going,” Walton said. “We're ready to start off the season and get things kicked off with somebody other than the orange team vs. the blue team.”
The UF lacrosse team, ranked No. 4 in the preseason by the media and No. 5 by Lacrosse Magazine, opens its 2014 campaign Saturday on the road at defending NCAA champion North Carolina, the No. 1 team in both polls.
The Gators are coming off an 18-3 season that included their third consecutive American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title and third straight NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's four-year history.
UF must replace a talented senior class, most of whom were three- or four-year starters.
“We are a young team,” coach Amanda O'Leary said. “We lost nine out of the 12 starters to graduation, so we have some spots to fill.”
SWIMMING & DIVING
With their dual-meet seasons behind them, the second-ranked UF men and No. 8 women will now gear up for the all-important postseason.
First up will be the SEC Championships Feb. 18-22 in Athens, Ga., where the Gator men are the defending champions.
Florida split its season-ending meet at Tennessee on Saturday on UT's Senior Day, with the men (8-0, 5-0) capping their third straight undefeated dual-meet season while the women (5-3, 3-2) dropped a nip-and-tuck battle with the Vols.
“We have basically 17 days of preparation for the conference meet with a few skills that we want to work on,” coach Gregg Troy said. “We're getting ready for a great competition up there in Athens.”