By Zac Blobner
After coming back from two half time deficits in the first and second round of the WNIT, the Florida women’s basketball team is looking to get their third straight tournament win Thursday night against head coach Amanda Butler’s former team, the Charlotte 49ers.
Charlotte is also looking for its third straight win after beating Liberty at home in round one and South Carolina on the road in round two.
On paper, the Gators (20-14) and 49ers (25-9) are almost identical in statistics in just about every category, the one defining difference between the two stat sheets… head-to-head wins. The Gators beat the 49ers 76-70 in the preseason WNIT on Nov. 15 at the O’Connell Center. The question is, can they do it again on the road?
Florida guard Jordan Jones said familiarity will factor into playing the 49ers for the second time this season.
“There’s a familiar look to them, we played them before, so I think we’re already a little familiar with the scout(ing report) which helps a lot because we have a quick turnaround,” Jones said. “It’s exciting, we beat them by 6 points, I’m sure they think they let one get away from them, so we’re excited, we beat them at our place and we’re excited to go up there and hopefully take care of business at their place.”
Jones, who had a stellar first round game against UMBC, found herself in foul trouble during the second round match-up against FGCU. With Jones on the bench, her ability to score was almost non-existent as she finished the game with 2 points off of free throws.
There is no doubt that Jones is an excellent scorer and teams are focusing on slowing her down but it’s hard to believe Charlotte will be able to be as effective as FGCU was.
When asked if Charlotte would give Jones the same trouble scoring, Butler replied,
“The thing that stopped Jordan (Jones) more than anything was that she was on the bench with fouls, so I hope not,” Butler said. “That’s part of being on the road as well, things happen that you can’t account for in your game planning but did they have a good defensive game plan.
“Are people going to be frightened of Jordan and her ability to shoot the basketball and score the basketball that she showed against UMBC and showed all year long? Absolutely. But for us, that’s hopefully where our balance kicks in and then we’re able to get the ball inside a little bit more or have one of our other players with the ball in their hands, getting more touches.”
Jones doesn’t seem to be too worried offensively for the upcoming game, but says that defense is going to be the key against Charlotte.
“They’re great in transition, most of their scoring comes from guards,” Jones said. “They have three players averaging double figures, there isn’t just one person you have to stop, it’s going to take a team commitment to defense and really buckling down on transition defense to stop their guards.”
Butler said that looking ahead, she feels the team’s read to play.
“They’re fired up about the opportunity to play Charlotte,” Butler said. “It doesn’t matter that it’s on the road, it doesn’t matter how good Charlotte is, we’re just excited to still be playing, and having a chance to show our improvement, and to show we’re playing our best basketball right now.”
A smiling Jones backed up that statement with added confidence, “We just want to keep playing, you know, we’re ready.”
Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday in Charlotte. Gatorzone.com will be streaming the basketball game online live.