Women’s hoops win big at San Francisco

In their first true road test of the season, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team dominated San Francisco, crushing the Dons 91-68 Wednesday night. With the win, the Gators improved to 7-2 on the season.

While considered a road game, the sparse crowd at the War Memorial Gym actually appeared to have more Gators fans than Dons fans in attendance. More than 3,000 miles from home, the Gators flexed their muscles early and often, using their superior physicality and athleticism to earn the victory in front of many friends and family.

“It was a great team win, everyone contributed, we were able to spread our minutes around and really in most of the ballgame play Florida Basketball,” coach Amanda Butler said on the Gators Radio Network.

The Gators showed some jetlag early in the game, with the Dons taking advantage. Rheina Ale, the leading scorer for San Francisco connected on a jumper with 14:07 remaining in the first half, upping an early San Francisco lead to 12-8.

The Gators responded quickly with a three-pointer from Jordan Jones. From there, the Gators slammed their foot on the gas and did not look back.

The Gators used an egregious mismatch inside to go on a 17-0 run, giving them a 25-12 lead in the first half. The Dons simply had no answer.

After struggling to the tune of just 4 points and 8 rebounds against Rutgers, Jennifer George was a catalyst on the night. The physicality of George was too much for an undersized San Fran squad.

George notched a career-high 24 points on 11 of 16 shooting. Her 11 rebounds gave her another double-double on the year.

“She was just doing her job. That’s what is so great about Jennifer, there is not a lot about what she does that is flashy, you know, the thing that I just respect the heck out of her about is that it seems like she gets her head knocked off every time she scores and it doesn’t even get half of the credit for how much contact she’s taking,” Butler said. “I think that shows her toughness and shows how much attention she’s drawn from defenses.”

The physicality and size of Florida really was the difference in this game. The size and strength of players like George and Azania Stewart, players who are SEC-tested, were too much for the Dons.

The Gators outrebounded San Francisco by 26 rebounds. Had the game been closer, this margin certainly could have been even larger.

In the first half, the Gators held San Francisco without an offensive rebound, something that impressed Butler.

“We came in at halftime and the assistant coaches said we haven’t given up an offensive rebound and that’s hard to do against anyone,” Butler said. “It was a great rebounding performance, whenever from Azania and George we can get 11 rebounds apiece, good things are going to happen for our team.”

Aside from George, the Gators were able to effectively spread the rest of the scoring. Deana Allen and Lanita Bartley were also in double figures in scoring for the Gators, posting 11 points each.

For San Francisco, Rheina Ale led the way with 19 points. Coming into the game, the Gators knew Ale would be the main threat on offense for the Dons, and they responded by stifling her on defense.

While she collected 19 points, it took her 14 shots to get there. She also turned the ball over six times.

In all, this is the type of performance that should be expected from this Gators team against lesser opponents. San Francisco was clearly an inferior opponent, and the Gators took advantage.

A lull on defense to the end the game not withstanding, the Gators were able to effectively establish their inside game and pressure defense. Big wins not only look good on paper, but also allow for extended minutes throughout the roster.

Every player on the active roster saw at least 13 minutes of game action. These minutes for role players can become a major factor throughout the season and into conference play.

Up next, the Gators continue their California tour at Pacific on Friday night. The game will be at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PST).

“When you have such a quick turnaround, you’ve just got to do what you do well,” Butler said. “We’ve got to play Florida basketball.”

You can follow Gator Country writer Phillip Heilman on Twitter at @phillip_heilman.