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USC's Thompson a tall order for UF

She's a scoring and rebounding machine, a senior forward whose experience and abilities have won her national acclaim and helped propel her team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

DeLisha Milton? Well, her too. But Tina Thompson is the player many in the O'Connell Center will be eyeing tonight.

Thompson, the 6-foot-3 Southern Cal multiple threat, leads the unranked and sixth-seeded Trojans (20-8) against seventh-ranked and No. 3 seed Florida at 8. At stake for the Gators (22-8) is a first trip to the Sweet 16, but Thompson could throw her imposing self right in the middle of their plans.

Like Milton, Florida's first-team All-American, Thompson puts up big numbers. She averages 22.7 points and 10.6 rebounds, yet has a wrinkle to her game that Milton doesn't: She leads her team in three-pointers with 40 this season.

A Naismith Player of the Year finalist, Thompson last week was voted second-team All-American.

"She's as good a post player as we've seen," Florida coach Carol Ross said. "She can do a lot of things with the ball. She plays more like a guard, but she happens to be 6-3."

Thompson is just one part of the biggest team the Gators will have seen all season. Forward Jodi Parriott is 6-2 and center Michelle Campbell 6-5. Milton, at 6-1, and 6-2 forward/center Murriel Page are the only UF starters over 6 feet.

The comparisons between Thompson and Milton, of course, lend themselves to talk about the two taking each other on in the paint for 40 minutes tonight. But don't count on it working out quite that way.

"So many times, when you look for that great matchup, it goes somewhere else," Ross said. "I don't think it'll be a Milton-versus-Thompson showdown."

Besides, the Gators proved Saturday night that they have more than just an inside game.

Although Milton contributed in many other ways to UF's 92-68 victory over Florida International, she scored just four points, nearly 16 below her average. Meanwhile, the Gators guards had one of their best outings of the season, tossing in a season-high 11 three-pointers. Dana Smith, Talatha Bingham and freshman reserve Tiffany Travis combined for 57 points.

UF was able to catch the first half of USC's 68-55 victory over San Francisco on Saturday, and has looked at film of the Trojans. But the Gators are going to focus more on keeping their game multidimensional than figuring out the keys to stopping USC, Ross said.

"At this point," Ross said, "our advantage is that nobody can play harder than us, and we'll be fighting hard for 40 minutes. It's not a big strategy. It sounds simple but I still think it's more of an attitude and aggression and a lot of other words that get thrown around when you get to the championship time of year."

For her part, Milton hardly acknowledges the fact that she gets a chance to face another All-American.

"Knowing we have a chance to make it to the next round is enough," Milton said. "My defensive scheme isn't going to change just because she has that title."

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