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Thursday, March 30, 2023

There was actually a bright spot in UF's 27-point defeat at Nebraska on Saturday night.

Forward Sharielle Smith returned from her injury and will hit the O'Connell Center floor for the first time this season when the Gators (2-1) host Prairie View A&M (1-3) at 5:30 p.m.

Smith, a projected starter during the preseason, missed the first two games of the season with a stress fracture that was discovered on Oct. 31.

While she was expected to miss four to six weeks, Smith played 21 minutes Saturday night, less than three weeks after the injury.

The sophomore made her presence felt, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. She said after the game that she had been anxious to get back on the floor.

"It felt really good," Smith said. "My foot's still hurting a little bit, but I had to come out and play as hard as I could."

UF coach Amanda Butler called Smith's performance a rare positive from the loss.

"She gives us a level of steadiness and consistency, really more so than anyone else that we have in terms of our post players," she said. "For her to step up and score the way she did, the plays she made after having not practiced at all … was just fantastic."

Butler said being forced to watch from the sidelines gave Smith motivation.

"It makes you so hungry to get out there and just want to give your best," Butler said. "That's what we saw from [Smith]. I was very proud of the way she played. If that effort had been uniform, we maybe would've had a different result."

Forward Marshae Dotson is glad to have Smith back in the lineup.

"We've got more post players to come in," she said. "She brings a lot of energy."

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Dotson will look to redeem herself after foul trouble limited her to 21 minutes Saturday.

She grabbed 12 rebounds but scored only 3 points, all coming from the free-throw line. The junior averages 14 points per game.

Dotson said she let herself get frustrated and it brought her team down with her.

"We've got to redeem ourselves," she said.

2008 RECRUITS SIGNED: Butler announced her first signing class as UF's coach Monday.

Tailor Jones, Trumae Lucas and Azania Stewart have signed National Letters of Intent to join UF for the 2008-09 season.

Butler looked to fill some weaknesses with the recruiting class.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 center from England that plays high school basketball in Middleburg, Va., will continue to help fill the size void. She is the first UF signee from Europe.

The 5-foot-8 Lucas, who hails from Greensboro, N.C., will add depth at point guard.

Butler nabbed an in-state recruit as well with the 5-foot-11, Altamonte Springs-native Jones, who will bring the versatility to play a number of positions.

"The quality I liked the most of all three of those guys was how excited they are to be Gators," Butler said. "That was something we were really seeking in this class - people who understood how special this opportunity is, who were not only challenged but excited to make history as a Gator."

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