If told that junior Jennifer George would be in foul trouble, play only three minutes and have no points or rebounds in the first half, then not many people would pick the Gators to win.
But Florida didn’t miss a beat without George, who entered Sunday’s game leading the team with 14.1 points and 10 rebounds per game, in defeating LSU 62-58 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Sunday.
With George limited, Sunday’s performance against the Tigers was a team win. The Gators (12-6, 2-3) out played, out hustled LSU (13-4, 4-1) because of a complete effort from every player on the court as all 10 players on roster registered points by the end of the game.
Florida will need to duplicate that effort this Thursday against a hungry Alabama team (10-9, 0-5) in search for its first win in conference play.
“It’s very pleasing,” UF coach Amanda Butler said referring to the team play. “You cheer for everybody on your team every game. You hope every game this person is going to play great, and the next game you hope somebody else plays great.
“You just cheer for them because you put in so much time and effort together, so to be able to look at that statistical column, which is what most people gage success by, and see everyone’s name is great.”
This was the first time the Gators had all players scoring since Dec. 28 against Samford.
It started owith senior Ndidi Madu making her second consecutive start in place of senior Azania Stuart, and for her second consecutive game, she made a 15-foot jumper as the first points for the Gators.
“To start (a game), I know I have to be aggressive,” Madu said. “And that’s a shot that my teammates and coaches expect me to hit. When I’m open, I’m going to take it. I’m very confident in that shot.”
Then freshman Andrea Vilaró Aragonés and sophomore Lily Svete, who normally see sparing minutes, came in and stepped up.
When the team was TRAILING 10-8 with George sitting out with two fouls in the early going, Aragonés was able to make a pretty jump shot and Svete was able to tacked on a pair of three-pointers to power Florida to a 21-13 lead.
“George has been playing so great,” said senior Jordan Jones, “but when George doesn’t have her best game, we need someone to step up. I couldn’t be more proud of, especially Ndidi and Lily, coming in. With those two quick fouls, I was a little nervous, but they came in and stepped up in a huge way.”
Every player wearing a white Florida jersey made some sort of impact, from Jones’ 16 points and four baskets from beyond the arc to sophomore Brittany Shine’s layup and assist off of a three-pointer to help fuel the Gators to have a solid lead going into half.
“I’m proud of them for taking their own individual opportunities and making the most of them,” Butler said.
If there was ever a lesson to be learned from George being in foul trouble, it’s that the Florida Gators no longer need to rely on one player to carry them on their back. They have 10 capable players who are able to contribute and willing to step up to help get that team win.
After all, there’s no “I” in Gators.