Lady Gators beat Temple 68-54

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Sha Brooks (Jackson, Tenn.) scored a season-high 23 points leading the University of Florida women’s basketball team to a
68-54 victory over Temple on Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center.

The outcome marked the Gator’s seventh consecutive victory, as Florida closed its non-conference slate with an 11-4 record. The Gators next turn their attention to Southeastern Conference play which gets underway on Thursday, January 10, when the team travels to Lexington to play Kentucky beginning at 7 p.m. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard live in Gainesville on WRUF 850AM and through, the official website of the Florida Gators.

Absent from the Gator sideline on Saturday was head coach Amanda Butler, who was tending to a family emergency. Assistant coach Susie Gardner assumed Butler’s duties on the bench and will continue to do so until her return to the team.

The Gators rallied for their coach, sprinting out of the gate with an

11-1 run in the first four minutes, as Brooks, Depree Bowden (Palmetto, Fla.), Marshae Dotson (Columbus, Ohio) and Lonnika Thompson (New Orleans) all chipped in during the offensive spurt. After a 2-plus minute scoring drought, Brooks sank a pair of free throws and extended Florida’s game-opening run to 13-1.

“We thought it was important to keep our winning streak intact and our confidence level high entering SEC play,” Gardner said. “Our run to start the game reflected that confidence and that was a key for us today.”

Temple (7-9) finally found its stroke, as Lady Comfort put back an offensive rebound and Lindsay Kimmel canned a three-pointer to pull the Owls within seven. Florida, however, countered with a 15-4 run with Bowden ending the march with a trey to put the Gators ahead, 28-10, with

6:37 remaining in the opening frame.

With Florida holding a 16-point advantage with just under two minutes remaining until halftime, Temple out-scored the Gators 17-10 and closed the period with five straight points, including an offensive put-back at the buzzer, cutting UF’s lead to 11 at the break.

The Owls scored quickly to begin the second half and were within single digits at 38-29, before Dotson answered just as fast and ignited an 11-2 run that drove the lead back to 18 points, 49-31. Dotson and Bowden scored four points apiece during the spurt and Sharielle Smith

(Bradenton, Fla.) nailed a three-pointer.

After trading scores, Temple tried to rally with Shaqwedia Wallace and LaKeisha Eaddy converting back-to-back three-point plays in a 15-second span to grab the momentum and cut UF’s lead to 12 points, 51-39, with

13:14 remaining.

Jennifer Mossor (Orlando, Fla.) and Brooks responded with buckets of their own for Florida, whose lead returned to 16 points with just over

10 minutes left. The teams exchanged equal scores over the next six-plus minutes, as the Gator lead alternated between 14 and 16 points.

Brooks ended the trend with a back-breaking three-pointer, that bounced high off the rim before dropping through, and Florida assumed a 64-47 lead with 3:25 on the clock and Temple never threatened again.

While her trey was key, a crucial portion of Brooks’ offense came from the free throw line, where she equaled the Gator efficiency record by hitting 10-of-10.

“Coach (Brenda) Kirkpatrick, who scouted the game for us, watched film with Sha this morning before the game and challenged her not to settle for the three-point shot,” Gardner said. “Sha drove to the basket and got herself to the free throw line. She leads the SEC in free throw percentage and we want her to get there as much as she can.”

Joining Brooks with a double-figure scoring effort were Dotson, who powered up 16 points along with nine rebounds, three assists, two blocksand a pair of steals, as well as Bowden, who added 12 points, and Smith, who contributed 11 points and seven boards.

“We know Coach Butler is going throw a difficult time right now and it was important for us to step up for her,” Bowden shared. “We’ve faced adversity before this season and not having her with us was another, but our coaches prepared us and Coach Gardner kept reminding us how important it was to play hard for Coach Butler.”

Florida shot 43.9 percent (25-57) from the floor during the game, while Temple managed just 35.7 percent (20-56) that included a 3-for-13 effort from the three-point arc. While the Owls edged the Gators in the rebounding battle, 38-34, Temple committed 23 turnovers compared with 14 miscues for Florida, which entered the game averaging 21.8 per game.

“We limited our turnovers against a very good defensive team,” Gardner noted. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team right now. Coach Kirkpatrick stayed up with me all night reviewing Temple and getting me prepared for the game. Everyone on the bench – players, coaches and staff – were focused and supporting each other to make Coach Butler proud. This a great team win in every since of the word. It was important for me, personally, to win this game for Coach Butler because I know how much she loves (her grandmother) and how much she loves this team.”

Comfort and Eaddy each scored 14 points for Temple, which lost its third consecutive game.