#16 Gators and #2 South Carolina will battle

The Florida Gators (19-4, 7-3) have far exceeded expectations this year. They were picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams in the SEC preseason poll.

At the moment, they sit third in the conference behind No. 11 Mississippi State (21-4, 8-3) and Thursday night’s opponent, No. 2 South Carolina (22-1, 10-0).

South Carolina is loaded with some of the nation’s best players including forward  A’ja Wilson (16.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG) and forward Alaina Coates (12.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG). That’s just the frontcourt.

The Gamecocks’ starting guards, Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy, are shifty, aggressive, and relentless.

Florida head coach Amanda Butler knows she has her hands full going into Columbia, but she and her team aren’t worried about the matchup.

"They are a great team. The thing that is so amazing about our league, though, is that you feel that way that every school is,” said Butler. “It's not like we go, ‘Oh, gosh! South Carolina – what are we going to do.’ We just came off of playing Texas A&M and Kentucky back-to-back, who are, in my opinion, both top-10 teams. That's what this league presents. I think our team is really excited about playing South Carolina but they fully understand and respect how good they are.”

If Florida expects to win this game, their shooting will have to be nearly perfect. The defense will have to lock down fiercely and force turnovers. It can be done; it’ll just be tough.

Don’t be surprised if the Gators do pull off a massive road win over the top team in the conference, though. ESPN may call it an upset, but don’t tell that to Coach Butler and company.

"Our team has a really good idea of who they are and from the outside there is still this idea that when we beat someone, it's an upset. Our team doesn't really look at those games as upsets,” Butler said. “That's no disrespect to our opponents. I just think they have a good sense of who they are, how good they are and it's just two great SEC teams going head-to-head and we'll have that on Thursday, as well."

Florida has proven all year that they are one of the best.

Now it’s time to take on the best.

Key Players:

Gators guard Simone Westbrook: She’s got the hot hands when it comes to steals and the Gators will need her to force a few against the Gamecocks. Westbrook is also dangerous from three so if she gets rolling then the Gators will have a great chance to win.

Gamecocks forward A’ja Wilson: UConn held her to just 13 points in the Gamecocks’ last contest. Wilson will be looking to score 20+ against the Gators on Thursday night.

Game Coverage:

Radio: LIVE on ESPN Gainesville (WRUF-AM850/FM95.3)

Internet Audio: FloridaGators.com

Internet Video: SEC Network+

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