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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Another chance to surpass low expectations.

That's why forward Marshae Dotson and the Gators can't wait to start Southeastern Conference play Thursday at Kentucky.

Dotson, originally from Columbus, Ohio, expects to have a few family members and friends make the 160-mile journey to Lexington, Ky.

While Dotson looks forward to that, she also can't wait to start proving the doubters wrong.

The Gators come into the conference opener on a seven-game winning streak, although the media preseason poll picked UF to finish 11th of 12 in the SEC. The Wildcats were slated to finish sixth.

Dotson doesn't mind the disrespect.

"I like when they do stuff like that," Dotson said. "It's more motivation for us."

The statistics seem to rule in the Gators' favor, as they have a player ranked in the top 10 in 11 of the 13 categories that the SEC records.

Assistant coach Susie Gardner said turnovers, rebounding and the ability to score will be the three major keys to success the rest of the way.

The ability to handle the ball has eluded UF at times this season, although Gardner has been surprised at the recent turnaround.

The Gators have committed 20 or more turnovers seven times this season but committed only 14 at Temple on Saturday.

"We were turning the ball over like 28 times a game, and now those numbers have decreased," Gardner said. "At the same time, the level of defensive pressure is going to intensify."

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Sophomore point guard Lonnika Thompson, who has started the last five games, said the team has worked hard against the scout team to gain preparation for the additional presses and quicker opponents the Gators will face.

"We've been doing pretty good," Thompson said. "It's time to just step our game up a little more because it's SEC now."

Another part of this season's turnaround has been the team's domination of the boards.

UF has outrebounded its opponents in 12 of 15 games, including three double-digit margins in the last four games.

"We're a very good rebounding team, but going into conference play we're about to hit a different level of athlete, a different level of size in the post," Gardner said.

The momentum gained from a seven-game winning streak won't hurt, though.

"I don't think the team could be any more confident going into SEC play then we are right now," she said.

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