The sound of Rod Stewart’s voice still makes coach Amanda Butler cringe.
Stewart’s music evokes memories of a disappointing time in Butler’s life — the final game of her college career and the frustration that went with it.
Butler played four seasons at Florida from 1990-94. In her final year, the Gators received a No. 4 seed and were prepared to host the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
However, Stewart was scheduled to perform in the O’Connell Center that weekend, forcing UF to decline the option to play at home. Instead, Florida traveled to College Station, Texas, to face Texas A&M.
Given the gift of homecourt advantage, the Aggies upset the Gators 78-76, ending Butler’s college career. She scored 15 points in the loss and still harbors irritation about her final season being cut short.
“It is a little bit a part of Gator history,” Butler said. “I’m very proud to be a part of Gators history, but I would like us to focus on the next chapter.”
The next chapter is tonight at 9. Florida travels to College Station to play No. 11 Texas A&M in the first meeting between the two teams since the 1994 matchup.
“I would much rather think about this next experience in Reed Arena,” Butler said. “I think it’s going to be a much more pleasant one.”
Led by junior center Kelsey Bone, who is third in the Southeastern Conference with 17.1 points per game, Texas A&M (19-5, 9-1 SEC) has returned to form after dropping its first three contests this season.
Bone played at South Carolina as a freshman and gave Butler headaches during their lone meeting. Florida won 59-56 on Jan. 24, 2010, despite Bone’s 19-point, 11-rebound effort.
“She’s bigger than some of the post players we have come against, and she is very, very strong,” junior center Vicky McIntyre said. “That’s something we are just going to have to figure out how to deal with. It’s just going to be a tough game overall.”
Texas A&M won the 2011 national title and is a likely candidate to contend for a Final Four appearance this season.
UF, meanwhile, has not beaten a ranked team this season.
Butler knows the matchup against Texas A&M gives Florida a chance to earn its first true statement victory of the 2012-13 campaign.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Butler said.
“It’s a great chance to not only get a league win against one of the teams tied for the league lead, but also do that on the road. I think that would really solidify who we think we are.”
Junior guard Jaterra Bonds leads the Gators in scoring during conference play with 14.7 points per game.
Her ability to contend with Courtney Walker, the SEC Freshman of the Week and the Aggies’ second-leading scorer, will be as important as the Gators’ ability to limit Bone.
Bonds has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance. She hopes to better her chances of making another run to the Big Dance while helping Butler collect some delayed gratification.
“[Butler] has mentioned it to us,” Bonds said. “That is something we are going to take personal. We want to get out there and win it for her, because that’s where her career ended.”
Contact Phillip Heilman at [email protected].