For the second time in as many games, junior forward Jennifer George produced a huge game in a Florida win. George was one of four Gators in double-digits, as the Gators knocked off No. 19 Florida State 71-57.
The win was the Gators’ first against a ranked team since a 64-53 victory at home against Arkansas last January. For Amanda Butler, it was the first home win against Florida State since she became head coach of the Gators.
“It’s special because, obviously, I’m a Gator and I understand the intensity of the rivalry. But I couldn’t be happier for our seniors to be able in their senior year to win at home and to win in this fashion in front of that crowd,” Butler said.
While four Gators finished in double-digits offensively, it was the defense of the Gators that won the game. Containing Cierra Bravard, a Preseason All-ACC First Team player, was the focus for the Gators for most of the night.
Bravard lived up to expectations, finishing with a game-high 22 points. However, the interior defense of the Gators made Bravard work for everything she got during the course of the night.
The battle inside between Bravard and Azania Stewart was particularly chippy, as the two fought for position in the paint throughout the evening. This constant battle seemed to have an effect on Bravard. While she continued to rack up points, she also racked up fouls. She had already committed four fouls when, with just fewer than four minutes to play, she and Stewart got tangled up underneath the Florida State basket. Both players received technical fouls on the play. For Bravard, it was her fifth foul, disqualifying her from the game.
“I was just fighting for the ball,” Bravard said. “It wasn’t anything personal or anything dirty, that’s what I do.”
For Stewart, the response of Bravard was something the team had seen in their scouting report.
“She would push and get out of control sometimes,” Stewart said. “It was just exciting we [got] her off the floor.”
The excitement of Stewart was obvious, as she immediately flashed a smile to teammate Jaterra Bonds.
The play of Bonds was another bright spot for the Gators. She had struggled in both of the team’s first two games against Michigan and Stetson. on Thursday night, she found the offensive rhythm she had lacked for much of the other two games. She finished with 14 points of her own, with five made shots totaling more than she connected on in the first two games combined.
“It felt good after struggling [in] two games to get back into the groove, and I felt comfortable out there,” Bonds said. “My game and my confidence felt good after I kept seeing the ball go in.”
For a shooter like Bonds, sometimes just connecting on the opening shot can be what ends a slump.
“When I made that first shot, it felt good,” she said. “When I hit that one, I said to myself, okay it’s going to be a good day.”
For the Gators, it was a good day. While slow starts had left the Gators trailing for much of the first-half in their previous two games, tonight was different. Against Florida State, the Gators were able to hit shots early and often. Their 41-27 lead at the half represented the first halftime lead of the season for UF.
The difference of 14 to finish the game represented the largest lead of the night for the Gators. FSU never lead in the game.
“They battled, and I thought they had a ‘we are not going to let this slip away from us attitude’,” Butler said.
Such a dominating performance by her team was not something that surprised the coach, but something she knew could happen if everyone did their job.
“As a coach, one of the most rewarding things is when someone does their job,” she said.
The next chance for the Gators to continue to build momentum off their win against the Seminoles comes Tuesday. The Gators (2-1, 0-0) will host Hampton in the final game of their four-game home stand at 7 p.m.