Despite it being the holiday season, the Gators were not in a very giving mood Thursday night in the O’Connell Center — and that’s just how coach Amanda Butler prefers it.
In an 88-38 thrashing of Savannah State in the first round of the Gator Holiday Classic, Florida (9-3) forced 21 turnovers and held the Tigers to just 28.8 percent shooting from the field.
“Whenever you can hold an opponent in the 30s, that’s significant,” Butler said. “It was a great defensive effort.”
Butler admitted she was disappointed because the team set a halftime goal of limiting Savannah State to 30 points. Though the Gators were unable to accomplish that task, the 50-point victory is the largest in program history since beating Alabama State 95-38 exactly two years ago.
Undoubtedly, the Florida coaching staff came away pleased with the team's effort, who will face Central Michigan on Friday at 7 p.m.
Though defense stole the show, Florida benefitted from several career offensive nights. Lily Svete, Christin Mercer and January Miller each set a career-high in scoring, as the trio combined for 44 points.
Freshman Sydney Moss scored a game-high 17 points, and senior Jennifer George posted her fourth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Florida wasted no time taking control of the game by scoring 14 of the first 15 points on Thursday. Svete put an exclamation point on a dominant first half with a three-pointer as time expired to give UF a 37-13 lead at the break.
Though Butler preaches the importance of focused defense, she stressed to her young team how equally important it is to take care of the basketball. The Gators responded against the Tigers with just nine turnovers, something Butler said was a sign of her team maturing.
“Us only having nine turnovers — I think that is a season-low and probably a program-low because single digits is hard for us to accomplish in the turnover column,” Butler said.
“It’s a great indication of chemistry and a team really starting to know each other.”