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Monday, December 05, 2022

Following a difficult game on the road, the Florida women’s basketball team will only see things get tougher in its home opener.

The 97-91 loss to Temple on Friday is out of the players’ minds, but No. 7 Florida State will pose an even bigger challenge at 5:30 p.m. in the O’Connell Center.

Coach Amanda Butler said while the Seminoles will present a difficult challenge, they have yet to prove themselves.

And regardless, the Gators (0-1) are more worried about focusing on what they can improve on rather than how talented FSU is.

"At this part of the year, there really aren’t proven upsets yet," she said.

"Of course, from the outside, that’s how it will be broadcast and that sort of thing, but I think that any team in this scenario — their belief in themselves, who they believe they are — has got to be what’s really really important."

A major key to the game for Florida will be staying out of foul trouble, which the Gators were unable to do in the season opener.

Junior forward Ronni Williams, who was billed as an All-Southeastern Conference Second Team player in the preseason, fouled out with more than seven minutes left to play.

Williams said she has to know who the referees are and adjust her game accordingly.

Butler had other ideas.

"We’ve gotta play with more discipline. I think the way the officials called the game is the way the game is going to be called," Butler said.

"We’ve gotta be disciplined as defenders and not put the other team on the line that early."

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Florida hasn’t had any luck against the Seminoles as of late.

In the last three matchups between the in-state rivals, the Gators are 0-3, losing by an average of 21.7 points each time.

Florida State returns almost all of its core starters from a year ago, including Adut Bulgak.

Last season, the 6-foot-4 Canadian import led FSU in scoring with 12.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game.

In total, FSU will return four players on their roster who averaged double-figure scoring last season.

For comparison’s sake, the Gators had one.

That being said, redshirt senior guard Cassie Peoples got off to a hot start from the field in the season opener by scoring 18 points, which is almost double her average from last season.

Peoples, who helps run Florida’s dual-point guard system with fellow redshirt senior Carlie Needles, said that scoring isn’t going to be the problem against FSU, but that UF needs to work on its defense if it hopes to avoid an 0-2 start.

"I think that’s the biggest thing coming off of this loss is that we can’t give up 97 points. Period," Peoples said.

"Yeah we had turnovers, yeah we had this and that, but we’re giving up transition 3-pointers, we’re giving up open shots to people that are gonna knock down open jump shots."

Peoples was Florida’s leading scorer in the season opener, followed by junior transfer Simone Westbrook with 14 points.

"We reflected on our mistakes, and tomorrow we’re gonna go out and perfect them," Peoples said with a grin.

"And, yeah, bad time for Florida State."

 Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri

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