Behind a career night from junior forward Jennifer George and the return of Deana Allen, the Florida women’s basketball team rebounded from an opening night loss to Michigan with a 71-57 win over Stetson.
After struggling to develop any consistent interior game against Michigan, the Gators dominated Stetson inside, outscoring the Hatters 46-20 in the paint. Many of these points came as second-chance points off rebounds from the Gators frontcourt.
In particular, George was able to capitalize on an undersized Stetson team. After failing to score on only one shot against Michigan, George was the focal point of the offense throughout the game.
“Tonight was a two-fold challenge for Jennifer, because she knew that we had prepped to get the ball insider to her, and Azania was a little bit slowed from a situation from Michigan,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “But Jennifer knows how much that we are counting on her, relying on her to be that presence that is very consistent.”
George, who admitted that she underperformed against Michigan, was consistent on both sides of the ball against the Hatters.
The return of Deana Allen, who missed opening night with concussion-like symptoms, also added a spark off the bench for the Gators. Allen contributed 11 points and eight rebounds, with two steals sparking fast break opportunities for the Gators.
“I was just excited to be back playing and doing what I could to help the team win,” she said.
Allen saw just 19 minutes of action in her return, but provided backcourt depth for the Gators, as Jaterra Bonds was saddled with foul trouble early. Her three first-half fouls helped continue her struggles out of the gate, as she finished with only three shots, missing on each.
Early on, the game had a similar feel to opening night for the Gators. Sloppy play and poor first-half shooting led to the Gators again entering halftime trailing their opponent. Against Stetson, the difference was only by a point.
The 10 first-half lead changes were reminiscent of Friday’s game that saw 29 total lead changes. However, the Gators came out with the most energy they have had all season in the second-half. The Gators quickly took the lead and never gave it back. Their energy is something Coach Butler saw as a real positive.
“We were really proud of the way we played down the stretch,” she said. “There is no question that our team had the energy to create our own momentum and make big plays.
For Stetson, the play of Sasha Sims was a positive moving forward after the loss. The sophomore Sims finished with 21 point herself, making three of her five attempts from the three-point line.
The three three-pointers for Sims were more than the Gators made as a team all night. One game after launching 27 threes, the Gators shot only 10 threes, making one.
While the Gators will need more consistent shooting against stronger opponents, the ten attempts were something Butler liked about her team’s performance.
“The best thing about that stat is the 10 part,” she said. “We know we are a better shooting team than we showed tonight, but we also know that winning the game in the paint is something that is really important.”
The Gators were able to win battle of the paint and therefore gain their first victory on the year.
With the win, the Gators (1-1, 0-0) prepare to host No.13 Florida State on Thursday. The game will be the Gators’ third consecutive against a 2010-2011 postseason team and second straight against a team who earned an NCAA Tournament birth last season. Tip-off is at 5:30 with the men’s team hosting UNF afterwards.