Florida opens home tourney with win
Redshirt junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) and freshmen Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) and January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) each posted a career-high scoring night as five Gators contributed a double-figure scoring effort in Florida’s 88-38 win over Savannah State on Thursday night to cap the first day of the Gator Holiday Classic at the O’Connell Center.
In addition to Svete’s and Miller’s 15 points and Mercer’s 14-point night, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Preseason Naismith Candidate and UF’s lone senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) added 14 points and 11 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double, the 23rd of her career. It was also George’s 50th double-figure scoring game of her Gator career.
Florida (9-3) has advanced to the Gator Holiday Classic championship game for the 23rd time – every year of the event – and plays host to Central Michigan (5-4) at 7 p.m. The Chippawas earned a hard-fought 98-84 first-round victory over St. Joseph’s (5-4), which will face Savannah State (5-7) on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“I think it was a really good win for us,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “Obviously, Savannah State struggled without their leading scorer in, but again I think our team took advantage of our opportunities really well. I hope for her sake that she’s ok. You hate to see anyone go down regardless of whose team they are on. But a lot of things to be proud of in this performance: only nine turnovers, Jennifer’s (George) consistency with delivering another double-double, and a whole host of career highs (Lily Svete, January Miller and Christin Mercer). That’s great to see.”
It wasn’t just a big night for Svete and company as UF got well-balanced contribution from a variety of sources. Not only was Florida shooting well from the field as a team, 35-of-74 (47%), but defensively, UF caused chaos towards Savannah State’s offense, as the Gators caused 21 turnovers which led to 20 points.
For Svete, it was her three-point game that ended up being the dagger for Savannah State. The Gator junior drained 5-of-10 from behind the arc. At one point in the second half, Svete sank three straight long balls as Florida poured it on and built led by as many as 57 points with just over three minutes to play.
The defensive effort went hand-in-hand with the balanced scoring, as it was the third time this season that five Gators had double-digit point totals.
“I think it’s one of those things that just makes us incredibly hard to prepare for and play against,” Butler said. “If you had said before the ballgame that we were going to win by 50 and Jaterra (Bonds) won’t score … Things like that are great evidence - like Jan (Miller) said - of how hard everyone is working and that we are continuing to improve day-by-day and week-by-week and that’s really important. We’ve got a lot of really threatening pieces; we’re not always the ‘Jennifer George Show,’ although sometimes that’s what we look like. That’s a great advantage for us to have a player like her (George) to go to, but we do have a great balance. I talked about our turnovers, but I think another significant part of the stat sheet is the 19 assisted baskets. I love that. It’s an indication of our chemistry, how much they’re looking for each other and finishing for each other, as well.”
The Gators got off to quite the start in the first 10 minutes of play with a 21-3 run to open things wide open. Strong defense along with timely rebounding allowed UF to get on the fast break and score in bunches. After solid inside play from Moss and George to take the early 4-1 lead, the Orange and Blue moved out beyond the arc and got two straight threes from Svete and Miller. For Miller it was her first made three-pointer of her career.
The scoring barrage continued from there as both Miller and Moss practically traded baskets between each other on the backs of the strong Gator defense to give Florida the 21-3 lead by the midway point in the first half. With 10 minutes still to go in the half, Florida was holding Savannah State to just 15 percent shooting from the field.
Tough defense remained the theme for the remainder of the frame as Florida caused 16 Savannah State turnovers and scored 13 points off those turnovers, but it was the performance from the bench players that really set the tone. 26 of Florida’s 37 first half points all came off the bench. Moss actually led all scorers at the half with 10 points off the bench, followed by Miller with nine points and Mercer with seven.
As for the starters, Svete and George contributed 10 points together with all six of Svete’s points coming from three-point land. The balanced scoring worked perfectly for UF heading into the locker room at half as it held a solid 37-13 lead.
The 13 points scored by Savannah State were the fifth fewest by a Florida opponent in a half in program history as the Tigers could only muster 5-of-20 (25%) from the field against the extremely quick Gator defense. Tiger junior Ezinne Kalu, the team’s leading scorer who entered the game averaging 14.6 points, left the court with an injury just 3:31 into the contest and was unable to return.
As the second half began, it was much like how the first half ended as Florida went right back to the same strategy that worked for them earlier. Nine straight points by the Gators were scored before Savannah State made its first bucket of the second half, a drought of almost five minutes.
The closest the Tigers ever got to the Gators for the rest of the night was a 24 point difference right at the 15:00 minute mark of the second half before UF ripped off 15 straight points to break the game open even more to a 59-20 lead with 11:45 to play.
From there, it was a matter of how high could the Gators go. The largest lead of 57 points was reached at the 3:07 mark of the second half after a fast-break layup by Moss. Savannah State did get the difference back into the 40’s, but a final free throw by junior Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.), who collected 10 rebounds with seven points, kept Florida right at the 50-point-lead mark at the final buzzer.
Courtesy of UF Communications
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2014 Football Commits
|Davidson (NC) Day|
|Columbia (SC) Spring Valley|
|Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar|
|Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County|
|Jacksonville (Fla). Raines|
|Deland (Fla.) High|
|New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine|
|Miami (Fla.) Central|
|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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