Gators take on Nittany Lions for trip to Sweet 16

Florida's Jaterra Bonds claps her hands after the Gators defeated Dayton in the NCAA tournament on Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 8:33 p.m.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Florida is trying to reach the Sweet 16 of the Women's NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998 when it faces Penn State tonight.


Today's game

Who: Florida (20-12) at Penn State (23-7)
What: Second round of the Women's NCAA tournament
When: 7 p.m. TV: ESPN2. Radio: 850-AM

Coach Amanda Butler has led the Gators to seven postseason trips (three NCAA, four WNIT), but she's still looking for second weekend play on basketball's biggest stage.

“We haven't really talked about that,” Butler said. “There's not any reason to generate any more emotion than that's already there.

“They're a smart bunch, they know what's at stake. You don't have to point out those obvious things.”

The No. 11-seeded Gators (20-12) have the additional challenge of playing the third-seeded Lions (23-7) on their home court, which was rocking after they knocked off Wichita State on Sunday. Standout Maggie Lucas scored 22 points and sparked a rally with consecutive 3s that helped send them into the second round for the fourth straight season.

“You've got to give something to cheer about,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “If you're stinking up the joint playing at home, it doesn't matter.”

Florida doesn't seem intimidated. Kayla Lewis can't wait to tip off in front of the Nittany Lions' crowd.

“Let's do it. What else you got?” she said.

Penn State knows a little about playing against SEC teams in the tournament, as this is the third straight year of doing so. The Lions are 3-7 against SEC teams in tourney play. Washington said it was easy to pinpoint what makes an SEC team such a tough out in the postseason.

“The physical play and defensive intensity,” she said. “We'll be ready for that and we know this is what the game is going to be like.”

Florida also has to deal with Penn State's size advantage, with three starters 6-foot-3 or taller. The Lions are led by center Talia East who had a season-high 13 rebounds as part of her fifth career double-double against the Shockers.

The Gators have no starters taller than 6-foot, yet they had no trouble out-rebounding Dayton 41-26 in the opening round. Lewis, 6-foot on the nose, is their leading rebounder with 8.7 per game. Florida was out-rebounded this season by an average of about four boards a game. The Gators make up for the difference with speed and fast-break points.

“We're a team that likes to play in transition and that's kind of a flaw for teams that our bigger, they can't really play in transition as much as we do,” UF guard Carlie Needles said.

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