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Sunday, March 03, 2024

UF basketball coach Amanda Butler sees confidence as a big component in how well a team plays.

Heading into a key home matchup with No. 17 Georgia on Thursday, the Gators (13-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) did everything they could against Arkansas (16-3, 1-3 SEC) on Sunday to give themselves momentum.

After battling injuries and illnesses all season, sophomore guard Jennifer Mossor finally hit midseason stride Sunday, scoring a career-high 19 points while leading the Gators to a 92-74 victory against the Razorbacks.

It was a complete performance for Mossor, who also added five rebounds and two steals and tied for the team high with five assists in just 23 minutes of play off the bench.

She wasn't sure what was different but was joyful nonetheless after having her best game as a UF player.

"I don't know. I got out there, and I was aggressive," Mossor said in a phone interview Sunday. "Once I hit that first shot, I was confident."

UF's 92-point performance was its highest offensive output since putting up 99 against Alabama State on Dec. 28, 2006. The Gators hadn't hit such a mark in conference play since the first round of the 2006 SEC Tournament, when UF scored 98 against Mississippi State.

"We should've hit 100," Mossor said with a laugh.

She said Butler told the team it could have reached the century mark, but the coach decided not to in a display of sportsmanship, as the game was easily in hand.

Mossor said Butler told the team before Sunday's game that she wanted big contributions from the bench, and the sophomore's big day led the way as UF's bench outscored its Arkansas counterpart 39-14.

"One of the big battles for us going into Arkansas was we wanted to make sure our bench absolutely outplayed their bench, and we got that," Butler said at her weekly press conference Monday. "Arkansas is a little short on depth right now. Their bench isn't quite as long as ours, so it's always pleasing from a coaching standpoint when you have an idea of something that's going to work and then your team carries it out."

It shouldn't go unnoticed that the Gators' "Big Three" of Depree Bowden, Sha Brooks and Marshae Dotson also had their almost-expected big games. Dotson had her eighth double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Brooks added 17 points, and Bowden had 15.

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After losing big leads in many road games earlier this season, UF responded differently Sunday.

The Razorbacks trailed by 11 at halftime but had cut the lead to 6 with 11:14 left. The Gators came back with a game-changing 16-0 run that extinguished any hope Arkansas had.

The dominant performance even got the Gators a little recognition.

A couple of poll voters looked toward Gainesville, as UF got two votes in this week's Associated Press poll, its first such nod since the Week 1 poll on Nov. 12.

"It's great playing as well as we are right now, because I think confidence is such a huge factor in being successful," Butler said. "Especially in SEC games, especially when you have an opponent like Georgia who is up next."

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