Women’s college basketball teams are allotted 15 scholarships. The University of Florida made do with nearly half that.
The Gators proved that eight is indeed enough.
Playing without three scholarship players because of injury or illness, Florida defeated Saint Louis University, 83-77, Saturday before 1,369 at the O’Connell Center. The Gators got 23 points from Depree Bowden and that was enough to offset the absence of Jen Mossor (abdominal infection), Kerri Simpson (illness) and Ebonie Crawford (neck strain).
“I think this (win) says that we’re tough,” first-year UF coach Amanda Butler said. “We had a similar conversation after the game against TCU (last weekend). We won that game because we were tough and we went into overtime and we were the more confident and ready team the last five minutes.
“We faced adversity (today) and unfortunately we’ve had a hard time keeping Jen Mossor healthy. She’s someone we really, really miss. But you find out the true character of a team and their desire and all the intangibles and then the things on the stat sheet you find out about team when you’re in a situation like that and how you handle adversity. I thought we handled it very, very well. A lot of that had to do with Pree’s leadership. She wasn’t going to let this one slip away.”
The victory was Florida’s third consecutive, the Gators’ longest winning streak since the 2005-06 season. The Gators (7-4) have a chance to match last season’s output of nine wins before the end of December.
“I’m really impressed with the job that Amanda Butler and her staff have done,” Saint Louis coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. “Completely different team.”
“They work a hell of a lot harder than they used to work,” Gray-Miller said. “They’re more aggressive, they’re more disciplined. It’s just a completely different team. Their attitudes are even different. I watched them practice at the NCAA tournament a couple years ago when they were in Tucson. It was like a joke. So I was kind of half-expecting … It’s the same players, so you know you think … (but) no, same players, but completely different players.”
St. Louis got a game-high 35 points from Theresa Lisch, but Florida countered with 7-for-15 shooting from Bowden, who grabbed seven rebounds and passed for six assists. Seventeen of her points came in the first half. The last shot, a trey from the left wing, put UF ahead 44-31 at the break.
“Right place, right time,” Bowden said.
Florida relied on Bowden early and Sha Brooks late. Brooks, who surpassed 1,000 career points with a second-half 3-pointer, scored 12 points, all during the last five-and-a-half minutes, productivity that allowed the Gators to decide the non-conference outcome.
“My shot just started falling,” Brooks said. “I knew we had to pick it up a little bit, so I was really concentrating, trying to create fouls and get to the free-throw line.”
Marshae Dotson, who sat nearly five minutes after picking up her fourth foul midway through the second half, chipped in 15 points and nine boards. Her five straight points held off the visiting Billikens (4-8) after the Atlantic 10 foe had pulled to 53-51 with 13 minutes left.
“Obviously, there are a few things that we could have done better,” Butler said. “The season is a process. Hopefully, we’ll continue to head in the right direction during that process.”
The Gators have six days off before hosting Holy Cross at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28, in the State Farm Classic, a four-team, two-day holiday affair. In the first game, UNC-Asheville faces Alabama A&M at 4:30. Both contests are at the O’Connell Center.