As the second-leading rebounder in the Southeastern Conference, Jennifer George has not faced many individual opponents she could not handle.
George has averaged 17.7 points and eight rebounds against the three best statistical rebounders she’s faced this season — Florida State’s Natasha Howard, Ole Miss’ Nikki Byrd and Vanderbilt’s Tiffany Clarke.
However, George said Friday that going up against No. 10 Tennessee’s Glory Johnson, the SEC rebounding leader at 9.3 boards per contest, would be much different.
“Glory Johnson may be the best athlete in college basketball and in the SEC,” George said. “[Facing players like Johnson] definitely is one of the reasons why I chose Florida.”
Johnson proved her worth in the Volunteers’ 75-59 victory against the Gators on Sunday, scoring a game-high 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
George did hold her own, recording her SEC-leading 14th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
However, George shot just 33.3 percent from the field, her worst mark since a 3-of-9 clip in an 81-56 win against Samford on Dec. 28.
“I thought George could’ve finished a few more shots,” Butler said. “She’s going to feel that way too when she sees the film.”
While her offensive struggles hurt, George and the rest of Florida’s frontcourt had the most trouble trying to contain Johnson defensively.
George and Azania Stewart racked up four fouls each, contributing to Johnson’s team-high five made free throws in seven attempts.
“We got behind too often on defense,” Butler said. “[Johnson] posts so aggressively that if you’re not a step ahead … [she]’s gonna make you pay.”
Mentioning Johnson and George in the same sentence did not seem possible the last time the Gators and the Volunteers played.
When Tennessee beat Florida 92-75 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Johnson scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. Meanwhile, George played only 13 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing six boards.
George averaged just 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest last season, never becoming a consistent fixture in the lineup. However, George has made her presence known this season, leading the Gators with 12.8 points and nine rebounds per game.
Her improved effort in the paint includes a streak of eight straight double-doubles that lasted from Dec. 7 to Jan. 12.
“In the first two years of my career, I think I wanted a backseat,” George said. “I wanted players in front of me to take the reins. Now, I’m looking for that more leadership role.”
George has assumed more responsibility this season, starting 23 games and playing 800 minutes, the most of any Florida post player during the regular season.
With the departures of Stewart and Ndidi Madu looming as postseason play begins, George will need to continue taking on a heavier workload in the paint.
“I’ve always wanted to have an all-around game,” George said. “Once you do that, it makes it hard for defenders to defend me.”
Contact Joe Morgan at [email protected].