The Florida women’s basketball team (19-12, 8-8 SEC) is preparing to take on the Dayton Flyers (23-7, 14-2 A-10) in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
The 11-seed Gators will face off against the sixth-ranked Flyers, who lost to Fordham in the Atlantic-10 conference tournament final.
The Gators are in the tournament for the 14th time and the second time in the last three years. Last year, the Gators earned a berth in the WNIT, falling to Drexel in the semifinal.
The Gators come into the game with four players on the roster from their last trip to the NCAA Tournament; seniors Jaterra Bonds and Lily Svete, redshirt junior Kayla Lewis and redshirt sophomore Carlie Needles, with Bonds and Svete being the only two players to record playing time in that tournament.
Jaterra Bonds talked about her feeling going into the tournament.
“It’s just a different mindset that teams come in with. It’s a brand new season, and you’re playing for the championship. It’s different than regular season and even your conference tournament,” Bonds said. ”It’s just a whole different mindset. I feel like teams have, and coaches have, just another level, a sense of urgency that people play with with a chip on your shoulder.”
Bonds is no stranger to pressure, or having to do it all. In her senior campaign in a Gator uniform, Bonds led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, assists at 4.3 per game and in free throw makes and percentages.
Bonds was also among the team leaders in rebounds and steals, ranking third on the team in both categories.
Bonds knows that the team will be leaning on her heavily for production, and she says that doing everything is something that she sees as her responsibility.
“As a point guard, I just feel like it’s my duty to lead us in every way I can. Scoring, defending, rebounding. Whatever I have to do, because obviously you see I’ve had to play the 4 (power forward) this year,” Bonds said. ”I just feel like whatever I have to do to help my team succeed is whatever I’m willing to do.”
The Florida Gators know they will have their hands full against Dayton. Florida head coach Amanda Butler weighed in on the Flyers.
“Very big, very good, very well coached and very talented. They have a very clear cut way of doing things, and I think that’s what you’d expect from a very experienced and successful coach. I had a chance to coach against him a little bit my couple of years in the A-10 and always had great respect for his program.
Two Dayton players with whom the Gators will have to deal are senior anchor Cassie Sant and Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Andrea Hoover.
“They have the A-10 Player of the Year, in Hoover. She’s fantastic. She can score the ball in a lot of different ways,” Butler said. ”And their team in particular, but a lot of players, that they could very easily be competing on our level and our league.”
She continued by praising Sant, saying, “They’ve got a senior leader in Sant, who anchors them inside.”
Tipoff from University Park, Pennsylvania is set for Sunday at 3 p.m.
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