Florida freshman Sydney Moss scored a game-high 27 points and junior Jaterra Bonds added 20 - including the final four points from the free throw line with 23.4 seconds remaining to give Florida an 85-80 victory over James Madison in the WNIT semifinals Saturday night.
Florida will play either Auburn (19-14) or Drexel (25-10) in the national semifinals on either April 3 or 4 on a campus site to be determined.
The game featured 16 lead changes and 10 ties. Florida (22-14) managed to survive the loss of its only senior, Jennifer George, who fouled out with 8:25 remaining and the loss of sophomore Kayla Lewis who left the game with an injury with 15:59 to play. The Gators finished the game with just six players.
“Our team is playing with a tremendous amount of determination and heart,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I’m just so proud of their toughness because with Kayla sitting on the bench with her ankle swelling up and Jennifer having to play with four fouls before fouling out with eight minutes left and us just having six players and trying to figure out who to play where. I just think it was a tremendous display of toughness and will and I couldn’t be prouder.” …
When Florida and Michigan meet Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Tournament South Region final, Florida will have a starting lineup that consists of three seniors and two juniors.
Michigan's starters are three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.
And none of that will matter on Sunday, Young said.
"It does not matter, (that the Gators' have more veterans starting)," Young said. "Kansas started four seniors and one freshman and they got beat (Friday) night by Michigan who played three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. When it comes down to it, you just have to come to play."
More from Young during Florida's interview session at the NCAA South Regional in Arlington, Texas.
Florida junior guard Scottie Wilbekin is expected to have his hand full guarding Michigan star guard Trey Burke when the Gators and Wolverines meet on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament South Region finals.
But Wilbekin said he's up for the challenge, along with the rest of his teammates.
"I would say I like our chances," he said. "It will definitely not be easy, they are a great team. Everybody can play well and win on any given night. We just have to make sure we are locked in and we take it each possession at a time."
More from Wilbekin at today's NCAA Tournament media session at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
FGCU has been surrounded by national media hype all week, enjoying the role of the Cinderella team in this year's NCAA Tournament.
But the Florida Gators, who will play FGCU Friday at 10:07 p.m. in the NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinals, say they aren't letting the hype surrounding the Eagles affect their preparation.
"Those guys had their own deal with what they were doing and what they had the school do for those guys,'' senior G Mike Rosario said. "But as far as going out there and competing for 40 minutes, that’s the next step in this whole thing. You’ve still got to go out there, the ball has to be thrown up. Both teams have to compete for 40 minutes. So that’s the one key that we haven’t forgotten about. We're focused on that."
More from junior guard Scottie Wilbekin on Friday night's game.
Injuries continue to take a toll on Florida's offensive line during spring drills, with Trip Thurman being the latest in a string of injured players at that position.
"Trip Thurman has a shoulder (injury)" Florida coach Will Muschamp said today. "It does not look good right now. Mike Mosher is coming in to look at the MRI tonight. We’ll know a little bit more tonight or tomorrow on where he is. Certainly disappointing. Trip has had an outstanding spring, he’s made some progress. Unfortunately, those injuries sometimes happen."
Muschamp said the Gators have been practicing with about six healthy players on the offensive line. …
The Florida men's basketball team isn't the only Gators squad heading to the Sweet 16.
Five Gators scored in double-figures to help the Florida women's basketball team to an 85-53 victory over Winthrop in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament second round at Winthrop Coliseum Monday night.
It was the second-largest margin of victory in 23 postseason wins in Florida history, second-only to an 89-49 win against Radford in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament.
The Gators (20-14) outscored Winthrop (21-12) 18-5 in the last 6:20 of the first half to take a 44-28 lead at halftime. Florida opened the second half on a 10-4 run to take a 54-32 lead it never relinquished.
“This was probably one of our most complete wins of the season when you look at scoring, rebounding, tempo, defense and the distribution of minutes and points,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “This was a fantastic team win against a very good team.”
Florida advances to the WNIT round of 16 and will travel to play at Charlotte (26-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The 49ers defeated Davidson, 72-60, on Sunday.
Scottie Wilbekin's role all season for the Gators has been as their primary defensive stopper.
He has relished the assignment of taking on the opponents' top guard all year. Now Wilbekin is preparing for yet another challenge when the No. 3 seed Gators face No. 11 seed Minnesota tonight at 7:10 in the NCAA Tournament in Austin.
Minnesota junior guard Austin Hollins is coming off a 28-point game against UCLA Thursday night, and Wilbekin is expected to draw the assignment of helping to contain him, which he said will be a great challenge.
"First of, he's a great scorer and he can score in a multitude of ways,'' Wilbekin said. "So I've really got to just be ready and I've got to count on my guys to help me if I get beat. Just be ready to contain him and don't let himi get any easy shots, always have a hand in his face."
Hollins said the challenge will extend both ways, acknowledging going against Wilbekin will be no easy task.
"He's a quick defender, he keeps his hands active, he moves his feet well,'' Andre Hollins said. "He's a solid PG. I have to contain him, and I have to protect the ball like any other game."
Wilbekin said the stopper role is one he enjoys. …
Preparing to move on from its SEC tournament title game loss, Florida is ready to embrace the challenge of the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re excited," Florida coach Billy Dnovan said. "This time of year to be able to get in the tournament and be able to play in the tournament I think is exciting. There’s certainly a lot of talk about it once you start hitting February."
The Gators will open tournament play on Friday at 7:27 p.m. vs. Northwestern State.
Donovan said what he loves about hte NCAA Tournament is its unpredictable nature. …
The Florida women’s basketball team will begin postseason play on Thursday in the WNIT.
The Gators (18-14) will play Florida International (19-12) in the first round, in Miami.
Florida leads the all-time series against Florida International, 4-2, with the Panthers holding a 2-1 record in games played on their home court.
The Gators just missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid, the first team among th "first four out" in the NCAA bracket.
With an invitation to the WNIT, Florida will participate in a postseason tournament for the 19th time in the last 21 years, including all six seasons under head coach Amanda Butler. A former Gator player, Butler became the first-ever Gator coach to guide the program to a postseason appearance in each of their first four years.
Florida, which will be making its 20th postseason appearance in program history, will be appearing in the WNIT for the seventh time since the event’s inception in 1998.
FIU finished third in the Sun Belt Conference regular season standings and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament before falling to fell to eventual champion Middle Tennessee, 68-59.
The WNIT will culminate with the championshp game on April 6.
Florida Gators fans, welcome to the Gator Report for all your news about Gators football, basketball and all UF sports. It's written by University of Florida beat writer Antonya English and the staff of the Tampa Bay Times. We invite your comments and participation.