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Thursday, May 23, 2024

With all the excitement and smiles on the players' faces before Friday's exhibition game, it seemed like the UF women's basketball team was just happy to finally be playing again.

After the game, however, the smiles turned into looks of uncertainty as to what went wrong and what the team will need to correct before the first regular-season game on Friday.

DT-3, a team composed of former college players and some WNBA players, proved to be too difficult a challenge for the Gators, who lost 71-62.

UF coach Amanda Butler said she wasn't disappointed with the loss as much as with the way her team played.

"We did not play Florida basketball," she said. "We just didn't adjust. We were handled. We were reactive. We never set the tone, and that's not the way we play."

The Gators opened the game 0 for 11 from the field and shot just 35.3 percent.

It felt like old times for UF's backcourt, which faced two former LSU players from last year's Final Four team in point guard Erica White and guard Marian Whitfield.

The two combined to score 15 points.

UF also had a tough time dealing with 6-foot point guard Nikki Teasley, the 2002 WNBA draft's fifth overall pick out of North Carolina.

Teasley finished with 15 points and was the game's leading scorer.

The Gators were able to get some of their newcomers time on the court.

Freshman Azania Stewart, who played just about two months after having a kidney removed, provided a spark for UF off the bench.

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She scored the first 3 points of the game for the Gators, making a layup and a free throw after a foul.

Teasley coached Stewart in a summer league, and Teasley's brother was Stewart's high school coach, so Stewart felt some love on the court.

"(Teasley) was talking to me throughout the game, 'Keep pushing hard, Z,'" Stewart said.

Stewart scored 7 points in just 11 minutes.

Butler said she wants to try to get Stewart conditioned better so she can pursue the ball and stay on the floor for a longer period of time.

Junior Steffi Sorensen enjoyed for the first time in a Gators uniform, adding 8 points off the bench.

"It was a great opportunity to actually get out there and play, try and contribute," Sorensen said. "I was trying to bring some energy by running the floor and getting in there on rebounds. It's disappointing we lost, but we'll come together."

The best part about losing for UF was that the game does not count on its record, and now Butler and her coaching staff will have some areas of weakness to focus on correcting before losses start to mean something.

"I think it's just more of a gut-check for us because we've had some good practices," Sorenson said. "It's time for us to buck up and get ready to play Friday."

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