The Florida Gators women’s basketball team will be back home on Thursday night to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. Florida is 10-9 and 1-5 in the SEC. They’re coming off their first conference win of the season, beating Georgia on the road 76-68. Tennessee, meanwhile, is 12-7 and 3-3 in conference play, as they are coming off of a 91-63 thrashing of Vanderbilt.
The Gators will look to keep the momentum going after picking up their first conference win in six tries. Florida jumped out to a big lead in the third quarter against Georgia, before holding off a furious rally in the fourth quarter. Head coach Amanda Butler said it was special to get that kind of win on the road.
Ronni Williams put up 16 points and led the team in scoring against Georgia, just as she has done all season. She’s averaging 17.6 points per game, and is shooting 56.8% from the field. In addition, she leads the team in rebounding with almost eight boards per game, and is second on the team in assists.
A big return from injury for the Gators is that of point guard Elif Portakal. Butler said that she gave the team good minutes against Georgia, despite only practicing twice since coming back from a 10 game absence. Butler said that the team plays better with a true point guard on the court. With Portakal being the only true one on the roster, she could be in line for minutes and a bigger influence on games.
Currently, Dyandria Anderson leads the team in assists. She is third in the conference in that category (4.5 per game), and she won player of the game for her efforts against Georgia. Look for her and Haley Lorenzen, the team’s second leading scorer (12.1 points per game), to step up and help Williams to provide a balanced offensive attack for the Gators.
There were many who could have earned this… but Dyandria was HUGE when the Gators needed her the most! #GoGators pic.twitter.com/mhPoJ9S5Fx
— Gator WBasketball (@GatorsWBK) January 22, 2017
One thing to monitor for the Gators is the status of forward Brooke Copeland. Her status is uncertain because of concussion protocol. Whether or not she is able to go though, Butler said her team will adjust and be ready because they’ve become more flexible as the season has gone on.
Butler mentioned how Tennessee is similar to Georgia in the sense that they like to get out into transition. She also talked about how they look different in the paint, especially in the case of center Mercedes Russell.
Florida will need to pay attention to Russell on the low block. She’s eight in the SEC in scoring at 16.6 points per game, fourth in rebounds (9.4 per game), and fifth in blocks (1.7 per game). It will be key for Florida’s forwards to stay out of foul trouble and at the same time be smart on the low block, or else Russell can take over the game.
Russell doesn’t do it alone though. In fact, she’s not even the leading scorer on her team. Diamond DeShields leads the team in that category, as the SEC’s fourth leading scorer is averaging 16.9 points per game. She led the team in scoring against Vanderbilt, putting up 23 of the team’s 91 points in the blowout win. Her fellow guard, Jordan Reynolds is fifth in the conference in assists with 4.1 per game.
Lady Vols put on a show from the offensive end of the floor! @DDDeshields finished with 23 points to lead all scorers! pic.twitter.com/iXoSqhJ6ub
— Lady Vol Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) January 22, 2017
While this may not be the same dominant Lady Vol team fans had gotten used to under Pat Summit, this current team under the coaching of Holly Warlick still poses a lot of danger for opposing teams. Among their wins is a win over, at the time, sixth ranked Notre Dame. In that game, they came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to knock them off at home.
The scheduled tip-off time is at 7 p.m. at Exactech Arena.