Thursday night’s game against Wisconsin didn’t start the way that Florida envisioned.
The Badgers, led by red-hot shooting, were able to take a nine-point lead in the first quarter. For a while, it seemed like everything that Wisconsin was putting up was going in.
At the half, UW led 44-43.
Fortunately for UF, it wouldn’t last.
Led by an 8-0 run to start the second half, the Gators were able to defeat Wisconsin by a lopsided final score of 91-75, which wasn’t indicative of how the game played out.
While Wisconsin had an excellent first quarter offensively, Florida (8-1) clawed its way back in the second. Although UF got as close as one point, the Badgers (3-5) were constantly able to fend the Gators off.
At least until the second half.
“We weren’t doing a very good job of keeping people in front of us, we weren’t really contesting shots and sometimes we got a little over-aggressive,” coach Amanda Butler said of Wisconsin’s opening onslaught.
“And I think we adjusted well to that, but you’ve got to give Wisconsin a tremendous amount of credit — when they had an inch, they took it and they knocked it down.”
Florida opened the third quarter with a new rotation, allowing it to take and keep a lead.
Led by 21 points from freshman guard Eleanna Christinaki, 20 points from redshirt senior guard Cassie Peoples and 18 from junior guard Simone Westbrook, Florida overcame a rather lackluster performance from its two interior players.
“Haley (Lorenzen) and the post players have really been somewhat driving everything and now the guards took over,” Butler said.
“I think that balance just makes us really dangerous.”
The Gators have relied heavily on balance this season. Night after night, it seems like someone new is stepping up, leading the team in scoring or picking up a double-double.
On Thursday it was Christinaki and Westbrook.
Christinaki has played at a remarkably high level for a freshman. Aside from leading the team in scoring, she is also tied with Westbrook for the team lead in rebounds.
Westbrook had five rebounds in addition to a team-leading four assists and six steals. Her tendency to pick up steals has earned her a nickname from coach Amanda Butler: “ninja hands.”
Florida will face Robert Morris on Sunday before the Gator Holiday Classic begins on Dec. 21.
“We’re about to come up on exam time, so there’s a lot of energy that we’ll expend there making sure that we finish strong in the classroom,” Butler said.
“But it’s gonna be fantastic to be at home.”
A radio broadcast contributed to this report.
Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri
UF point guard Cassie Peoples dribbles during Florida's 64-56 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 8, 2015, in the O'Connell Center.