Jennifer George knows she must improve her play for the Gators to turn around their slumping season.
Though she has marginally regressed from a breakout year in 2011-12, her statistics are still respectable.
With just four games remaining during the regular season, George is averaging 12.2 points per game, which ties her with Jaterra Bonds for the team lead. The senior forward leads UF in rebounding, pulling down 7.9 boards per contest.
But George has failed to be the steadying force coach Amanda Butler hoped her only senior would be on an inexperienced team.
Florida has floundered during Southeastern Conference play as a result.
“Jennifer has struggled to put 40 minutes together,” Butler said. “She’s got a little bit more to give. It’s really going to be critical down the stretch that not just Jennifer but everyone is playing their best basketball.”
George’s performance against Georgia on Sunday exemplified the issue that has plagued her and UF since she first suffered a dislocated right shoulder against LSU on Jan. 6.
In a 62-57 loss — Florida’s eighth loss of the season by 10 points or fewer — George led the Gators with 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
But her numbers conceal a trend that has developed in her game and become an epidemic for Florida — a failure to play two consistently productive halves of basketball.
Before halftime, George equaled her four points with four turnovers. Two of her miscues came in the first 2:40, forcing Butler to pull George from the game for nearly 6 minutes.
“We were just trying to encourage her and help her,” Butler said. “It’s very difficult when someone is trying to battle something that is not skill-related. But I think that’s where Jennifer is right now. It’s very hard for her to come back from an injury that impacts everything you do.”
George struggled throughout the first half before finding her groove after halftime.
She scored 13 points in the second half, going head-to-head with Georgia senior forward Jasmine Hassell, who scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the game.
“I thought she played a really, really solid and inspired second half,” Butler said. “That was important for us.”
Of the improved second half, George said: “The first half I was more passive and trying to pass more … I just tried to be more aggressive in the second half.”
George was equally assertive early in the season. She averaged 14.6 points during Florida’s non-conference slate and 14.5 in her first two SEC games.
But recovering from two shoulder dislocations has been difficult.
“Until the injury, (she was) our leading scorer and leading rebounder,” Butler said. “That really got her off track. It’s a hard thing to bounce back from mentally.”
George missed only one game — Florida’s 52-44 loss to South Carolina on Jan. 20. However, she has not been the same since.
She identified that fact following the Gators’ loss on Sunday.
“I have to stop playing like I’m hurt,” George said. “As a senior, I think I’m not doing as much as I can do. I can lead a lot better, and that’s what I need to do to get the team back on track.”
Contact Phillip Heilman at email@example.com.
Jennifer George (32) shoots during Florida’s 62-57 loss to Georgia on Sunday in the O’Connell Center. George notched her ninth double-double of the season in Florida's 69-58 win against Arkansas on Thursday.