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Freshman fueling Florida’s WNIT run

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Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 12:46 am

Sydney Moss enjoys nothing more than ruining the day of opposing players and fans, something she has made a habit of doing during the Gators’ run to the Final Four of the WNIT. 

The freshman guard is averaging 19.5 points per game — best on the team — during Florida’s four wins. Included during that span is a career-high 28-point performance to help Florida survive a first-round matchup with Florida International.

But Moss especially relished her opportunity against James Madison. 

Dealing with a raucous environment and a persistent group of hecklers, she scored a game-high 27 points during Florida’s 85-80 victory. 

The win propelled the Gators into the WNIT semifinals for the first time since 2000. 

“It’s really exciting going to someone else’s court and hearing the fans silent,” Moss said. 

“JMU kind of had a huge fan base. Just hearing them after we won — the buzzer going off — just silence. The only thing you could hear really was our fans doing the Gator chomp.”

Coach Amanda Butler has looked to instill aggression in Moss throughout the season. 

Moss showed glimpses of her potential during the regular season, notching double-doubles against North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. 

But she failed to play with confidence and consistency until the Gators reached the postseason. 

“She’s matured a ton, and she’s learning a ton,” Butler said. “That process is certainly not over, but I think there has been a tremendous gap in where she started mentally and what she expected of herself and what she knew about herself as a competitor to where she’s at now.”

Moss’ on-court demeanor has shifted noticeably. Rather than settling for jumpers or disappearing for stretches, she has consistently influenced the outcome of games on both ends of the floor. 

In addition to leading the team in scoring, Moss has  grabbed 8.8 rebounds per contest during the WNIT run. 

“She is definitely the MVP for this tournament so far,” senior Jennifer George said. “She’s been so consistent with her scoring and her defense. I have just been so impressed.” 

The Gators (22-14) will need Moss to continue playing at a high level as Florida travels to Philadelphia to face Drexel (26-10) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

“A very tough matchup for us,” Butler said. “It is one of those teams that when you watch them on film, you go: ‘Oh, gosh.’ They pose a lot of different challenges. … We’re definitely going to have our hands full.”

Contact Phil Heilman at [email protected].

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