On Monday afternoon, the Gators will find themselves in a fairly familiar position.
Following a 122-65 shellacking of the visiting Saint Francis University Red Flash (2-8) on Sunday, Florida (10-1) advanced to the championship game of the Gator Holiday Classic.
This will be the second time the Gators make an appearance in a tournament championship this season.
The first time was in the OMNI Hotels Classic in Colorado over Thanksgiving break, when the Gators beat host Colorado-Boulder in the finals. UF coach Amanda Butler hopes that the team’s previous victory in a tournament this year will help Florida in its annual home competition.
“I think as a team, (having already won a tournament) really draws confidence from one another and things that they’ve experienced together,” she said.
“They’re a team that really generates energy from one another and from those situations, and I know that’s what our upperclassmen will be talking about.”
The Gators put up a record-breaking performance with their score of 122 points, shattering the old record of 112 set in 1995. Coincidentally, the last time the Gators scored in triple digits was Dec. 17 2013, and it was also against Saint Francis, a 105-71 win.
In addition, five Gators found themselves in double-figures, led by the transfer duo of center Tyshara Fleming with 20 points and guard Simone Westbrook with 17.
“Whenever you have a chance to score that many points and have a chance to break records and leave your mark and make history, then it’s a really good night,” Butler said.
As the final score would suggest, the game was never really in doubt. At one point UF led 30-2.
That margin of victory wouldn’t last, but Florida never relinquished its lead.
The Red Flash did test Florida — especially in the third quarter — with transition defense.
“We know how to play transition defense,” redshirt senior guard Cassie Peoples said after the game.
“It’s just a matter of executing. So we’re gonna go back and watch film tonight and just fix what we didn’t do in the third quarter.”
Despite the Gators’ momentary defensive lapse, Butler credited her team’s victory primarily to its defense.
“There was so much distribution of the ball, and minutes, and points, and effort was everywhere and I think all of it was fueled by our defense,” she said.
The Gators were able to set the record for most single-game points in program history without their leading scorer.
Junior forward Ronni Williams was out after having endured wisdom-tooth removal on Thursday, but Butler said that she’ll be ready on Monday
Florida will now turn its attention to North Carolina State (9-3), which beat Eastern Kentucky (4-5) 73-62 in the first game of the tournament. That matchup is slated for a 2:30 p.m. start on Monday, as Florida will look to rebound from losing in last year’s Gator Holiday Classic final to Eastern Washington 67-56.
Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri
Cassie Peoples drives down the court during Florida's 64-56 loss to No. 6 Tennessee on Feb. 8, 2015 in the O'Connell Center.