Butler gets blowout win in debut

The best thing that happened for Amanda Butler Thursday night — other than a win in her Florida coaching debut — was letting all her players play in a non-practice setting. The Gators’ 106-28 win over Warner Southern was carnage, basketball style, but at least it gave Butler and her team a chance to go against someone new in an exhibition game at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida had 12 points on the scoreboard before Warner Southern scratched and it was 15-2 just five minutes into the game. The Gators led 57-16 at the half and things only got worse in the second half for the NAIA school from Lake Wales.  Warner shot 6-28 from the field in the first half but that was scorching compared to a second half showing of 4-33 (12.1 percent). For the game, Florida held Warner Southern to 16.4 percent from the field.

Florida had five players in double figures led by junior center Aneika Henry, whose line score read 19 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Henry was 7-8 from the field and 5-6 from the foul line.

“I think you got a glimpse of what Aneika can be,” said Butler. Henry is a 6-3 transfer from Hillsborough Community College who is a tremendous leaper. She has dunked in practice and wanted to get her first dunk ever in a real game.

“They really didn’t give me the ball when I was running,” said Henry in a rather modest tone.

Butler said that Henry is a unique talent, not only because of her size but because of “the catches she makes, the plays she finishes and the rebounds she grabs that a lot of other people just can’t … they’re just not physically capable of doing it, combined with the fact she plays really hard and wants to get better every day. We’re only seeing the beginning of the impact of what Aneika’s impact will be. It’s going to be huge.”

Other Gators in double figures were Sha Brooks and Depree Bowden (14 each), Kim Critton (13) and Marshae Dotson with 12. Dotson and Critton each had nine rebounds and Dotson led the Gators with five assists.

Florida played 11 players in the game and 10 of them scored.

Butler admitted that maybe the best thing that happened was her team got to go against unfamiliar faces. After two and a half weeks of practice, they were ready to go against someone new so that mission was accomplished. She was also pleased to get double figures in minutes played for 10 of her 11 players.

“As big as the margin of victory was, there are still a lot of things we can correct,” said Butler. “There are a lot of things that we can show, a lot of teaching points we can make and a lot of things we have to get corrected before we play Xavier next Friday.

“Obviously you get reps for some kids in game situations that maybe in a different ball game, they aren’t going to get those type of reps. In terms of trying to build depth and looking to a time in the season when maybe the kids that are going to play the majority of minutes are going to be tired, it’s crucial for kids that have already been in game situations that they are going to face later on down the road.”

As bad as the score was, the Gators did the best they could to hold the score down. After a first half loaded up with fast breaks, the Gators slowed the ball down and worked on their halfcourt game in the second half.

“Obviously we could have continued to run but we didn’t think that was the classy thing to do,” said Butler. “We weren’t getting better if we were shooting layups as well so we thought it was an opportunity to work a little bit more on our halfcourt execution and give them specific options out of our halfcourt offense … hey let’s look for this … this is the only option we’re going to look for this time down the floor.”

The Gators open their regular season November 9 against Xavier at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.