Florida’s last four victories have come by way of the same starting five.
The Gators are a perfect 4-0 when senior Jaterra Bonds, redshirt junior Kayla Lewis, redshirt sophomores Carlie Needles and Cassie Peoples and freshman Ronni Williams are on the floor for the opening tip.
Their last two losses, however, have featured two different lineups.
In the loss at Arkansas, Florida inserted redshirt senior Lily Svete in place of Williams. Svete had been thriving when coming off the bench up to that point, averaging 12.7 points per contest during Florida’s three-game winning streak that made its way into early February.
But against the Razorbacks on Feb. 6, Svete scored six points and racked up four fouls.
Williams was coming off an injury, though, and Svete returned to the bench for Florida’s next game — an 86-80 victory against then-No. 15 Kentucky where Svete scored a career-high 17 points.
Sophomore January Miller had a whale of a game against the Wildcats, too, scoring a team-high 20 points.
Her performance was good enough to earn her a starting spot against Georgia on Sunday in place of Needles, who failed to score a point and tallied one assist against Kentucky.
“January had a great game against Kentucky,” coach Amanda Butler. “Carlie had struggled a little bit. It’s not something that we place a whole lot of emphasis on in terms of, ‘We’re going to put our best five out there, who’s playing the best right now?’ January’s been in that starting lineup as much as Carlie has. Lily’s been in as much as Ronni has. We like to think of ourselves as pretty interchangeable.”
However, Miller’s recent good fortune didn’t follow her to Athens, Ga.
In the Gators’ 67-58 loss to the Bulldogs, Miller only scored five points and subsequently fouled out.
“It was a tough day for January,” Butler said. “She had a fantastic outing against Kentucky (and) was really picking her spots well and making her type of plays. (Against Georgia) she just didn’t seem to have that same sort of flow, and I think that’s ultimately why she ended up picking up a couple of those fouls. No question that when she’s not on the floor, we’re a little bit slower. She makes us a lot faster, a lot more dynamic as an attacking unit.”
Ironically, Needles outscored Miller coming off the bench, scoring six points.
To be fair, one can’t logically pin the change in the lineup to Sunday’s loss. Correlation does not equal causation, not to mention Georgia had a strong showing on its home floor, winning the rebounding battle and draining seven threes.
“They shoot the ball really well against us,” Butler said. “Not that they don’t shoot the ball well in general — they’ve got really dynamic players in a lot of different spots. Our challenge that is there every game is to be able to adjust to game trends. That’s something we talk about all the time and we didn’t do a very good job of that [Sunday}.”
Recent history was also not in Florida’s favor heading into Georgia. The Gators haven’t won a game in Stegeman Coliseum in a decade.
“They’re very good,” Butler said. “They’re good every year. Coach Landers does a great job. There’s not anywhere in our league that I would say is easy to play or easy to win.
“It’s a spot that’s especially difficult for us.”
Follow Gordon Streisand on Twitter @GordonStreisand
January Miller drives down the court in Florida’s 75-67 win against Alabama on Jan. 30 in the O’Connell Center. Miller fouled out against Georgia on Sunday.