Junior forward Marshae Dotson tied her career high with 26 points and added a team-high 10 rebounds to lead the University of Florida women’s basketball team to a 70-49 win over Alabama A&M on Saturday night in the championship game of the 2007 State Farm Classic.
Combined with her 12-point, four-rebound effort on Friday night, Dotson’s play on Saturday earned her State Farm Classic Most Valuable Player honors. She is the ninth different Florida player to earn the distinction in the 17-year history of the tournament, and the first to do so since Bernice Mosby won the second of her back-to-back awards in 2004. Dotson was joined on the all-tournament team by senior guard Depree Bowden, both of whom garnered the first all-tournament selections of their Florida careers.
Saturday’s victory was Florida’s fifth in a row, marking its first five-game winning streak since the 2005-06 season. The Gators (9-4) also picked up their ninth win of the season, equaling their win total from the entire 2006-07 season, which saw them post a mark of 9-22.
The win also gave UF the State Farm Classic title for the 14th time in the event’s 17 years, and its third in the last four editions of the tournament.
“We won a championship, that was our goal and that was what we set out to do,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “Since I became the head coach here and this became my team, we’ve talked about generating championship expectations. We’ve practiced and trained with those expectations, and to have an opportunity to win a championship on our home floor, in front of our home fans, was big for us, and I’m proud that we were able to do that.”
Dotson, who tied the career high that she set against Auburn on Jan. 18, 2007, earned her fifth double-double of the season and 12th of her career – both team highs. She was joined in double figures by sophomore forward Sharielle Smith whose 10 points marked the fifth time this season in which she’s reached double digits in the scoring column.
Dotson also hit 8-of-9 free throws on the night, matching the career high that she has posted twice during her tenure as a Gator.
Florida began to pull away near the midway point of the second half, getting five-straight points from Dotson to open up a 14-point margin,
49-35, with just over 12 minutes left in regulation. Florida’s lead stretched to 21 points at 59-38 on a three-point play by sophomore guard Brittaney Thomas with 8:01 to play, and sophomore guard Jennifer Mossor came up with another three-point play exactly four minutes later to run the lead to 64-40.
Florida outscored the Bulldogs (2-7) by a count of 30-16 in the final 14 minutes of the game, rattling off separate runs of 9-0 and 8-0 during that time frame.
UF came racing out of the gate to open the game, building an 8-0 lead in the opening minutes and seeing its advantage increase to 13 with just over nine minutes left to play in the first half. Alabama A&M managed to cut the lead to three points on two occasions, but timely buckets from junior center Aneika Henry and Thomas allowed Florida to claim a 32-27 edge at the break.
The catalyst of the Gators’ offense throughout the night, Dotson poured in 15 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and a
5-of-6 effort from the free throw line.
Rebekkah Barnes led Alabama A&M with 11 points on the night, hitting 4-of-9 shots from the field for a Bulldogs squad that shot only 28.1 percent on the night. Alexis Faulk hauled in 10 rebounds to tie Dotson for the game high, and Christian Malone chipped in four assists to lead AAMU.
Florida returns to action on January 2, 2008, when Florida A&M (8-1) visits the O’Connell Center for a 5:30 p.m. ET showdown in the first game of a doubleheader that day with the Gator men’s team. FSN Florida will televise the game live for viewers in the North/Central Florida territory, while the radio broadcast can be heard in Gainesville on WRUF AM850 and thru http://www.GatorZone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators.