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Florida looking for new scoring options entering season

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Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 12:50 am

The best defense is a good offense.

The Gators are banking on that mantra to ring true this season.

Florida ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense with 70.6 points per game last season, trailing only Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Volunteers and the Wildcats finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in the nation.

But the Gators lost two of their top three scorers from last season.

Sydney Moss, who transferred to Thomas More College during the offseason, was second on the team with 11.8 points per game a year ago.

Jennifer George averaged 11 points per game as Florida’s only senior after leading the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game during her junior season in 2011-12.

“Jennifer is not a player you can replace too easily,” redshirt sophomore guard Cassie Peoples said.

“We’re going to have to find our own, new identity for this team and for this program this year.”

Last season’s leading scorer, Jaterra Bonds, returns for her senior season, but the rebounding presence provided by Moss and George will be missed.

The departed duo led the team in offensive rebounds on a Florida squad ranked fourth in the conference in the category.

“I never think you can fill anybody’s shoes,” Bonds said. “You can create your own, new path.”

With two huge parts of last year’s offense gone, coach Amanda Butler has had to make significant changes.

It’s fitting that the Gators are moving to a system emphasizing the transition game.

The consensus among coaches and players is this team’s strength is in its quickness and versatility.

“I think we’ve got great team speed,” Butler said.

“I think we’re going to have great balance. I think we’re going to have a lot of versatility and a lot of ability to interchange positionally.

“That should make us hard to guard and, in some instances, pose some defensive problems.”

Added sophomore guard January Miller: “Our strength is our running ability. We love to get up and down. We’re very quick. Our dribble penetration and our shooting … we play off of that really well and we’re going to incorporate that in a lot of plays that we run.”

Florida ranked third in the SEC in field with a .432 field goal percentage in 2012.

With the offensive-minded Bonds back in the fold, as well as the additions of freshman Ronni Williams and transfers Antoinette Bannister and Peoples, that number could improve this season.

“A strength of this team is our ability to interchange,” Butler said.

“We’ve got post players that have got great face-the-basket skills. Just about everybody on the team has legitimate 3-point range.”

The players said they know they are strong in the shooting game, too.

“We’re all shooters,” sophomore forward Christin Mercer said.

“Last year, [Bonds] was our point guard. She played almost 40 minutes a game. We saw some problems later in the postseason in that she got cramps.

“Cassie Peoples will take over some of [Bonds’] role. She’s great with her handles. We just added another shooter to the family.”

This family of shooters is young, with three sophomores, three redshirt sophomores and one freshman on a team of 10 — nine given Viktorija Dimaite is out for the season.

Although the team may seem young and inexperienced on paper, Butler believes her group has enough experience at the college level.

“We’re kind of an old, young team,” she said. “We have this giant sophomore class. Most of those sophomores have been in college for more than two years, although they may not have two years of playing experience underneath their belt.

“We don’t think of ourselves as a young team, although it may look that way on paper.”

Follow Gordon Streisand on Twitter @GordonStreisand.

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