Florida returns to the court following a week-long break from competition for the holiday and puts its season-long five-game win streak to the test on Friday, when the Gators play host to Holy Cross in their final non-conference game of the season.
It’s the always-popular Dollar Concession Day in the O’Connell Center, where general admission tickets and select concession items are priced at only $1.
The Gators are coming off an 81-75 victory against Central Michigan in the championship game of the Gator Holiday Classic, Dec. 21.
“Practice was very intense,” said UF head coach Amanda Butler of the team’s first practice following the break. “We needed to get back in the gym, get the juices flowing again and get cranked back up. I really like the way our team responded to that. We challenged them to be excited about being back and have the opportunity that lies ahead of us. I think they really embraced that.”
Holy Cross’ last game also was on Dec. 21, when the Crusaders earned a 68-66 win at Bryant.
The Gators enter their Dec. 28th game against Holy Cross riding a 13-game home winning streak, including a 14-game run against non-conference teams. The overall run is the fifth-longest in UF history, while the streak versus non-SEC schools is tied for the fifth-longest streak of its kind in program history.
After playing five of their first six games at home, the Crusaders are now in the midst of an eight-game road trip where they have earned three of their five wins.
Holy Cross received an extra boost to its lineup when senior guard/forward Amy Lepley made her season-debut in the Dec. 21 win at Bryant where she scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting. Lepley, a preseason All-Patriot League selection and team co-captain, was the Crusader’s leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and rebounder (6.4 rpg) last year and helped the squad to a 19-15 overall record.
Junior guard Alex Smith has been honored as a two-time WACBA Player of the Week, while Raquel Scott has been a four-time WACBA Rookie of the Week honoree this year.
“Holy Cross is a team that’s very well coached,” Butler said of Crusaders coach Bill Gibbons, who is in his 28th year at the helm of the program. “They are unique in the different ways they can hurt you. They have good balance and their best player, Amy Lepley, just returned to the court from an injury and that’s a great shot in the arm for them. It’s a boost in their level of confidence. They have a couple of players who can really shoot the ball and a couple who are really crafty in the way that they can score. All of that is held together by Coach Gibbons, who I have a lot of respect for.”
Preseason Naismith Player of the Year candidate Jennifer George has scored in double-figures in 10 of UF’s last 12 games, but had a run of eight straight halted with her nine-point, eight rebound effort against Central Michigan (Dec. 21). George also had a streak of four consecutive double-doubles halted in the game versus the Chippewas.
George, who is the SEC’s ACTIVE career leader in double-doubles with 23, most recently tallied a 14-point, 11-rebound effort against Savannah State for her 23rd career double-double.
George leads the Gators in scoring (14.1), rebounding (9.0) and steals (2.3) and ranks second for field goal percentage (55.8%) and blocked shots (16).
Freshman Sydney Moss also is averaging a double-figure scoring effort tallying 11.2 points per game. She was voted the MVP of the Gator Holiday Classic after leading UF to two wins and the team title. During the two-game run, Moss led the Gators with 16.5 points – converting 63.2 percent (12-19) of her shots, along with 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals.
Overall this season, Sydney Moss leads Florida in assists (4.2 apg), while ranking second for scoring (11.2), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and steals (1.8) and has flirted with a triple-double four times. Entering the games of Dec. 28, Moss ranks second for assists and fourth for rebounds among SEC freshmen. She has been the Gator’s game leader for assists seven times, for rebounding three times and scoring three times.
Jaterra Bonds, the only returning player that boasted experience in the backcourt for the Gators this year, leads the team in trips to the free throw line (51), where she converts 76.5 percent of her attempts. In UF’s win against Pacific (Dec. 7), Bonds scored a game-high 20 points, hitting 12-of-15 free throws, an effort that tied for the fourth-most made free throws in a game in program history.
Bonds is averaging 10.0 points with 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
“This is our final test of the year that we break down into three seasons,” Butler shared. “You want to end you non-conference schedule not just by winning, but by playing your best basketball.”
Courtesy of UF Communications