For 30 minutes, it seemed possible that the Gators women’s basketball team could suffer another letdown at home against an incomparable foe.
But the Gators eventually pulled away for good, thanks to the persistent play of freshman Haley Lorenzen, and Florida (8-5) defeated North Florida 63-51 on Sunday in the O’Connell Center.
The 6-foot-3 freshman from Iowa City, Iowa, consistently dominated the Ospreys (7-6) in the paint, scoring 14 points on a variety of low post moves. Lorenzen also grabbed a career-high tying eight rebounds, often frustrating the smaller North Florida defenders.
“I like playing with my back to the basket and we have a great group of posts, and we have a lot of diversity in that post group as well,” Lorenzen said. “I think Coach (Murriel) Paige and Coach (Amanda) Butler teach a lot of good things which has given me a lot of confidence.”
Butler has seen the difference Lorenzen makes in the post and has rewarded her with a starting role – a role that may continue to expand as the Gators now head into tougher Southeastern Conference play.
“My coach used to tell me that the best teams are the ones that can control the paint,” Butler said. “We did that today, and this was a great transitional game into that next challenge. It’s absolutely essential that we play with a higher level of discipline, and I think a lot of that will be reflected with how efficient we are in the paint.”
Cassie Peoples scored 12 points and Brooke Copeland added 11 for the Gators, with both players hitting a pair of three-pointers. Florida shot just 3-for-17 from the three-point arc in the team’s last loss to Eastern Washington, but quickly improved on that by going 4-for-12 from downtown in the first half.
The play of Florida’s freshmen – Lorenzen, Copeland and Dyandria Anderson – has been a bright spot for the team in the early going. Lorenzen and Copeland have scored in double figures in four and two games, respectively, this season, and Anderson provides an energetic boost on both ends of the floor in the times she gets in.
While the play of Florida’s guards may appear concerning, Butler insists that she’s content with January Miller and Carlie Needles repeatedly shooting even if they’re cold from the field.
“I thought January Miller played great minutes and that had nothing to do with scoring,” Butler said. “I think that is fantastic growth for her. Those are the things that really excites me about the next phase and going into the conference schedule knowing that there is better basketball ahead of us.”
Follow Graham Hall on Twitter @Graham311
Haley Lorenzen blocks a shot during Florida's win against Jacksonville.