Butler, Gators focus on big picture

It’s not even January, and the Florida women’s basketball team appears to be on pace to surpass last year’s productivity, but UF coach Amanda Butler said future goals will not be defined by past accomplishments.

Florida hosts St. Louis at 1 p.m. Saturday. A victory puts the Gators (6-4) at seven wins, meaning that they could match last year’s win total before the end of December, nearly two weeks before Southeastern Conference play starts.

“It’s a nice thing for people to be able to talk about, but what we do this year we’re not measuring whether this year’s successful or not based on what happened last year,” Butler said. “This year stands on its own. We approach every single game wanting to win it. If that win total surpasses and when it surpasses last year, it’s not as significant as getting that next win.”

An 80-76 victory over Texas Christian University last week generated momentum, but the Gators were careless, committing 28 turnovers. One came late in the second half, led to overtime and nearly cost Florida the game.

“We’re not taking care of the ball like we should and we, as coaches, continue to look for patterns, or if there’s a trend. Why are we turning the ball over? Are there certain situations?” Butler said. “We’re continuing to address it in practice in terms of trying to make decisions under pressure. We’re having a little trouble feeding the post. That seems to be one of our issues. We’re just drilling it to death and trying to re-create game situations the best we can in practice.”

Even with its ball-handling problems, Florida played well enough down the stretch to pull out an impressive non-conference win over the Frogs, who were picked in preseason to contend for the Mountain West Conference title.

“We beat a good basketball team,” Butler said. “TCU drilled Oklahoma State and they were number twenty-three, twenty-four in country. That makes it a better win from an outside perspective. For people on the outside to appreciate how good TCU is, that was a demonstration of it, certainly. I was very proud after watching the tape. Did we play flawless basketball? Absolutely not. But we played tough basketball. We looked like a well-conditioned team. We won all the battles that are indications of toughness.”

As for skill, the Gators leaned on Jennifer Mossor, who delivered a career-high 17 points. Mossor, sophomore guard from Orlando, has missed most of the season with a broken finger.

“Jen is a very smart kid, a very confident ballplayer,” Butler said. “I don’t think she was surprised how well she shot the ball. That’s how she shoots it in practice. As you know, we had a lot of time to practice last week (with the break for exams) and Jen embraced that opportunity. In terms of confidence, I think it was huge.”

Mossor averaged 4.2 points as a freshman, and like many of her teammates, appears rejuvenated by a fresh start under Butler, who replaced Carolyn Peck last spring.

“I don’t think any of our kids evaluate themselves based on last year,” Butler said. “They know how hard they’ve worked — April, May, June and July – and that’s not even considering how hard they’ve worked since practice started. That’s where their confidence is coming from. It’s coming from within them and their unit and how much time and energy and focus they’re putting in out here on the court.”

St. Louis (4-7) is led by Theresa Lisch, (15.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), a sophomore guard, who missed the first eight games of the season with a wrist injury.

“I’m very familiar with them having coached against them in the Atlantic 10,” said Butler, who coached at UNC-Charlotte last season. “They are a very scrappy, young team with some very capable individuals. Theresa Lisch is back now and she makes the kids around her more confident. They’re scrappy and they’re tough and they’re going to fight you from beginning to end. I know they will come in looking at this as a great opportunity to knock off an SEC team on their court. We’re going to have to be ready.”