Butler earns 100th win as UF coach

Senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) scored a game-high 19 points and led four Gators in double-figure scoring to help the University of Florida women’s basketball team to an 84-65 win over Georgia State at the O’Connell Center on Sunday afternoon.

Along with George’s, junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) added 17 points, which is her most in a game since scoring 23 against Charlotte on March 24, 2011. Sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) added 11 points along with a career-high 12 rebounds for her first double-double of her career and freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.), who had 10 points for the first double-figure point outing in her young Gator career.

The win was also head coach Amanda Butler’s 100th in her six seasons as the head Gator.

As was the case in the season opener on Friday, Florida benefitted from scoring off turnovers, as 40 of the Gators’ 84 points were made off of the Panthers’ 28 turnovers.

“Georgia State is a very good team,” said Butler, who joins Carol Ross as the only Gator coaches ever to win 100 games at Florida. “They were a team that I think struggled last year but this year they have made great improvements and great strides so that was a good test for us. They challenged us in a lot ways that we needed to be challenged, in particular on the boards. I think initially we kind of shrunk from that challenge, but we battled back and made some adjustments and started fighting back hard for the ball. I think we can play better. There where a lot of bright spots. I like the way we are pressing and turning people over, but we have to do a better job maintaining intensity and focusing on defense.”

Scoring was hard to come by in the early part of the game when both UF and Georgia State had four turnovers through the first five minutes, but the Gators got things going after the first points of the contest came from George to give Florida the early 2-0 lead.

Much like Friday’s game, the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s game came down to who had the stronger defense. Only 22 combined points were scored between the Panthers and Gators during that opening span, but it was Florida holding Georgia State to a mere 25 percent shooting from the field that was the early difference.

After a few traded buckets, the Orange and Blue re-built a 14-10 lead by the midway point in the first half with four different players contributing. After Georgia State tied the game at 10 with 12:06 to play in the half, Florida went on a nice 15-2 run to get to a 25-12 lead with just seven minutes to go. During the run, freshman Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) was the big contributor scoring six of the first 12 points, before Bonds started to find her rhythm by draining the Gators first three-pointer of the night and then scoring on a nice individual effort for a fast break layup to finish off the run.

GSU did cut the lead to single digits with four minutes to play in the half, but, once again, it was Bonds, who came to the rescue. Two fast break layups with the added foul and made free throw, Bonds pushed her team’s lead to 34-21 with 2:56 to go and already had 15 points in the game. George added three more points before half to give UF a 37-25 lead at the break.

Bonds was the big scorer in the first half, dropping in 15 points and also pulling down five rebounds to lead all Gators. George and Mercer followed with eight and six points, respectively.

As a team, Florida benefitted from getting to the line as it was 10-of-15 from behind the charity stripe and also shot a steady 45 percent from the field. The Gators kept the defense going through the half when they caused 15 Georgia State turnovers which translated into 17 Gator points.

At the start of the second half, it looked as if GSU was going to make another run at the Gators after cutting the lead nine, but then 10 straight Florida points nixed the run and pushed the Orange and Blue to its largest lead of the game. Five different players scored during the 10-0 run, including freshman Chandler Cooper (Clarksville, Tenn.), who sank her first three-ball of the game. With the added 10 points, UF led GSU 47-28 with 17:22 to go.

After the first media timeout of the second half, Florida continued to perform good ball distribution as freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) and junior Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.) scored their first points of the game and helped push the team’s lead over the 20-point mark, 51-30.

The score difference didn’t change much by the midway point in the second half, but the Gators continued to build on their lead by timely three-point shooting and points in the paint. By the 7:35 mark in the second half, 43 of UF’s 72 points were scored in the paint, many of those points coming off of the Gators’ 16 steals and the fast break.

For the remainder of the game the Panthers never got closer than 19 points as UF’s strong shooting continued to keep up the pace. Florida’s lead nearly broke 30 after freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) drained a three-pointer from the right wing for her first points of the game, but the largest lead stayed at 29 until the final buzzer sounded.

As a team, Florida shot 31-of-70 (44%) from the field and did a great job getting to the free throw line, going 17-of-25 from the stripe. Also, the Gator defense showed up on the stat sheet as it held Georgia State to 34 percent shooting and tallied 17 steals. For Bonds, she tied a career-high for steals in a game with four.

Florida next makes its first road trip of the season, traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., to face Florida State on Thursday at 7 p.m. Live streaming video of the game can been seen through ESPN3.com, while the radio broadcast can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY The Star 99.5 FM, as well as through the internet for free at http://www.Gatorzone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators.

Courtesy of UF Communications