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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Depree Bowden has not played her final game in the O'Connell Center after all.

UF received word Wednesday that it will host its second-round National Invitation Tournament game on Monday at 7 p.m. The Gators (18-13) will play the winner of Friday's South Florida at Florida Gulf Coast matchup.

"Hopefully, we get a home game," Bowden said Tuesday before learning UF would play at home. "I'll be honored to play back in the O'Dome."

Bowden's wish came true, but it wasn't automatic, despite the fact that UF earned a first-round bye and would be considered the "higher-seeded" team.

In order to attempt to host games, schools had to make bids to Triple Crown, the company that sponsors the WNIT. Bids consider many factors, including a school's fan base, but also include the dollar amount the school is willing to pay.

Florida Gulf Coast made a $30,000 bid to host Friday's game, according to a Fort Myers News-Press report.

Separate bids had to be made for the second round, and it was rumored UF's monetary offer would not have topped the Eagles' bid. South Florida would not have been eligible to host because it had agreed to host first- and second-round games of the men's NCAA Tournament this weekend.

Wednesday's announcement came as a bit of a surprise because the location of Monday's game wasn't set to be determined until after Friday's outcome.

The Gators have had success at home, going 13-5 inside the O'Dome, including big wins against NCAA Tournament-bound squads Xavier and Auburn.

"We are excited about continuing our season and having a chance to do so on our home court and in front of our home fans," UF coach Amanda Butler said in a press release. "Bringing postseason basketball to the O'Connell Center is a credit to the way our team has performed all year at home, the commitment our administration has to the success of our women's basketball program and our supportive fans, who have helped make the O'Connell Center a special place to play."

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