With two regular season games left, it’s safe to say Florida’s women’s basketball team has surprised people.
Picked to finish 12th in the Southeastern Conference at SEC Media Day, the Gators are in the running to finish within the top four.
In a conference that could send as many as nine teams to the NCAA tournament, Florida is in good standing, especially considering it finished 13-17 last year.
"Success depends on how you define success," coach Amanda Butler said. "I think that the way this team has loved each other, and the way they’ve improved and fought for each other, and the way they’ve represented this university makes it successful to this point."
Florida already boasts 20 wins, meaning it will almost certainly return to the tournament. And while Butler prefers to measure regular season success in terms of improvement and relationships, she said it’s undeniable that her team’s belief in its abilities has grown with each win.
"I think it’s a season that’s given us great confidence to this point of knowing what we should continue to do from here on out," she said.
The Gators will have two more chances to build on that confidence heading into the SEC and NCAA tournaments. And given that they’ve lost three of their last four games, heating up over the next four days could provide a helpful boost for the postseason.
The first chance comes at 8:30 tonight against LSU in Baton Rouge. Florida has already played the Tigers once this year and managed to scrape out a 53-45 win.
That 53-point output was Florida’s lowest scoring game of the year. But luckily for UF, LSU is no offensive juggernaut, and the Tigers were marred by a 28.6 percent shooting clip in the second half.
However, Butler expressed concern over how the Tigers got Florida out of their usual offensive rhythm the first time around.
"They made us play their style for the majority of the game," she said. "But they have a very specific way of playing. They don’t allow very many possessions in the game, they’re a low-scoring team because of defensively what they do to you and, offensively, they’re doing LSU’s defense limited Florida’s scorers. While freshman guard Eleanna Christinaki led the team with 15 points, only one other player scored more than seven.
This time around, the Gators will obviously be hoping to find more success on the offensive end. And even though she admits that, in some ways, the regular season has already been successful, Butler’s only concern going into tonight’s game is scoring and winning.
"We would like to continue to find that success in different ways going forward and finish strong and not getting ahead of ourselves," she said. "That’s gonna be by going to LSU and playing a very, very tough LSU team on their home court. I wanna be successful Thursday."