The tone for Florida's win over Louisiana Tech was set early Saturday.
In the first Sweet 16 game of the day, No. 5 seed George Washington knocked off No. 1 seed North Carolina in the East Regional semifinals. Then No. 6 seed Notre Dame _ which, like Florida, never had reached the Sweet 16 _ beat Southeastern Conference power Alabama, seeded second in the East.
Florida coach Carol Ross has said all season that women's basketball is becoming more level throughout the nation as more teams get competitive. The Gators proved that by shocking the Techsters, who have appeared in all 16 NCAA women's tournaments.
"We just felt like we were way behind," Ross said. "Like we needed to make up for lost time."
STREAKING: The Gators have won more NCAA Tournament games in eight days than they had in the program's history.
Florida entered the tournament with a 2-4 record in four years of play and never having advanced past the second round. Now the Gators are 5-4 and guaranteed at least a .500 tournament record, even if their season ends Monday against Old Dominion in the Mideast Regional final.
OVERWHELMED: To say Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore doesn't remember the last time the Tech- sters were down by 20 points in a game, as they were against Florida, is an understatement. He wasn't the coach when it happened.
When Barmore, who has a 428-66 record in 15 years at Tech, was asked how long it had been, he could only guess. "Probably '79," he replied.
ET CETERA: Louisiana Tech committed 21 turnovers, and Florida scored 27 points off them. The Gators were the only ranked team Tech could not beat this season. Louisiana Tech was 7-0 against Top 25 teams; it beat Tennessee and North Carolina State twice, and Western Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia.
_ SHARON GINN