A short bench makes for some long games — just ask the Florida Gators women’s basketball team.
Three Gators logged more than 30 minutes in Saturday’s victory against Temple. Junior guard Dyandria Anderson registered 37, while Eleanna Christinaki and Haley Lorenzen recorded 36 and 33, respectively. Five of UF’s players average over 20 minutes a night.
Normally, heavy minutes would be expected to wear Florida’s players down, especially since the three teams UF has faced so far have averaged two more players sitting in reserve.
And yet, the Gators have made a habit of outlasting the opposition.
Through three games, No. 16 Florida (3-0) owns a fourth-quarter scoring differential of +38. Defensively, the team sits 22nd nationally in steals per game and grabs an average of 12.3 more rebounds per contest than its opponents.
Part of that can be attributed to skill. However, the bulk of it boils down to athleticism, Butler said.
“It’s a real part of our reality,” UF coach Amanda Butler said on Monday. “We’ve still gotta want to … be dedicated to our bodies so that we can play this style for that long.”
One person has led that charge.
Fifth-year strength and conditioning coach Tyler Stuart has dealt with short benches before. With nine years of training experience, the former director of strength and conditioning for Appalachian State knows how to get the best out of his players, constructing individual workout regimens for each of coach Butler’s athletes.
“Those fourth-quarter performances are, in large part, (due) to the level of strength and conditioning training (we receive),” she said.
And that quality has shown early in the season.
It’s evident in Christinaki, one of four SEC players to average at least 20 points per game this season.
It’s evident in freshman guard Sydney Searcy, who Butler praised for her defensive work. Regularly matched up against the opposition’s primary ball-handler in press situations, the native of Ponte Vedra Beach averages 2.7 steals per game, tied for third-most in the conference.
It’s also evident in the team as a whole, which is scoring an average of 19 points on fast break offense each game.
Despite their heavy usage, the Gators have played the high-intensity brand of basketball that characterizes Butler’s teams.
And with a game against Arkansas State scheduled for tonight, they’ll be looking to keep their energy high.
“It’s a reflection of our commitment,” Butler said.
Coach Amanda Butler (right) celebrates with Eleanna Christinaki during Florida's win over Kentucky on Jan. 31, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.