Florida women face Drexel in WNIT Final Four
Three weeks ago the Florida women's basketball team was the first team out of the 64-team women's NCAA Tournament field - just missing out on the Big Dance.
But the Gators's season is still going.
Tonight, Florida will play Drexel in the Final Four of the WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament).
This is only the second time in program history the Gators have reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament, not including the 1985 team’s run to the final of the NWIT that was an eight-team event. Florida won four games to advance to the 2000 WNIT championship game and lost to host Wisconsin, 75-74.
The Gators have won four road games to advance to tonight’s WNIT semifinals, only the second time in the 16-year history of the tournament that a team has reached the Final Four without playing at home.
“Playing on the road has been a great opportunity for us to grow and mature in ways that are not afforded when you have the comforts of home,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “It’s been fantastic for our players to come together and be focused just on each other and whatever team is up next. Last week was a very special week for us and we’d like to have another one.”
During the Gators’ four-game WNIT run, freshman Sydney Moss has averaged a team-high 19.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, hitting 54.7 percent from the field.
Florida’s roster includes six freshmen, and only three current players had any postseason experience before the WNIT began.
If past games are any indication, this one could be a nail-biter. Three of the Gators’ four WNIT games have been decided by seven points or less, including the previous two which included a combined 26 lead changes and 14 ties.
But most likely the Gators won't be intimidated by the hostile crowd. By now, they're used to it.
"We’ve showed a tremendous amount of toughness and guts and perseverance through all of the things we’ve faced on the road,” said Butler, who is 11-5 in the postseason in six years with the Gators. “The adversity of playing in front of great crowds full of Gator haters . . I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do to this point. Our kids have worked very, very hard and we’re excited about the next challenge.”