The University of Florida women’s basketball team did just fine without its best player. The Gators got double-digits from four others Wednesday to defeat Florida A&M, 71-51, in non-conference play before 1,871 at the O’Connell Center.
Marshae Dotson, who entered the game averaging 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds, tallied just three points and three rebounds after being poked in the eye in the first half, an injury that forced the junior forward to the bench for nearly nine minutes of action. No rebounding? No scoring? No problem.
Senior guard Depree Bowden scored a season-high 24 points. Sharielle Smith added 14 and Brittaney Thomas had 10. Junior center Aneika Henry contributed a career-high 15 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Gators, who won their sixth straight game and improved to 10-4, a victory total that surpassed last season’s nine wins.
“Hopefully this is an indication of our maturity,” first-year UF coach Amanda Butler said. “Earlier in the season we might have panicked. With how well Pree’s playing, how well Sharielle’s playing, how well Aneika’s playing, not that we weren’t worried, we’d like to have Marshae on the court, but we also have a lot of confidence in the other kids.”
The Gators clobbered the Rattlers (9-2) with their speed and size. FAMU yielded 21 turnovers and 27 offensive rebounds. Overall, UF outrebounded the smaller Tallahassee foe 55-34, its highest rebounding margin since 2003 when the Gators outrebounded UC-Santa Barbara by 25 boards.
“When you dominate a category as important as rebounding, it’s a good indication that you were the more aggressive team,” Butler said. “In the first half, shots weren’t falling, but we were chasing them down and giving ourselves second-chance opportunities.
“When Aneika cleans the glass and owns the paint like that, it allows us to be more aggressive on the perimeter. That’s something we want to be able to do defensively. I’m proud of the fact that not only was this a team-win, but we also had individuals step up and play great games.”
Florida led 29-25 at halftime, but opened the second half with an 11-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way. Bowden was equally effective in each half, scoring 12 points in each period.
In all, she finished nine of 15 from the field and six of 11 from the 3-point line. In between treys, the 5-foot-11 Palmetto native grabbed four rebounds and snatched four steals. This compensated for an off night from Sha Brooks, who was 0-for-8 from the field and scored just one point, nearly 10 below her season average.
“If Pree shoots the ball that well, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Butler said.
The Gators (10-4) visit Temple Saturday and open Southeastern Conference play Jan. 10 at Kentucky. So far this season UF is 0-3 on the road.