Amanda Butler's Gators Head to SEC Tournament

For just the seventh time in 30 years the Gator women's basketball team has a first round bye in the SEC Tournament which gets underway Thursday in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Florida finished fourth in the SEC and will face Tennessee Friday at 7:30. Florida beat the Vols 66-57 in the O'Dome during the regular season.

The Gators take a 23-6 record into the event despite losing four of their last five contests. They are ranked No. 17 in the coaches' poll and seem to be a lock for an NCAA bid with a chance to be seeded No. 4 or No. 5. The Gators have never won the SEC Tournament and only once (1997) have they made it to the championship game.

Amanda Butler is in her second season with the Gators and has posted a 42-20 record in that time. She starts the smallest lineup in the SEC without any starter who is six feet tall. Still they managed to out rebound conference opponents by an average of two a game. Butler said getting to watch during round one is definitely an advantage.

"The bye is crucial for us in so many different ways," Butler said. "I think this team has worked very hard to earn that extra day of preparation, that extra day of rest. I'm very proud of that effort. At the same time I think our charge this week coming off our Georgia performance is that we have to get better defensively."

Florida has played very well on the defensive end of the floor in the O'Dome but for some reason that has not been the case on the road. Butler said she's gotten her team's attention about that since there are no more home games to be played.

"From here on out every game is a road game. Even though we're playing at neutral sites we won't be playing in the O'Connell Center any more. We've got to be able to rely on our defense. We've got to be able to rely on our rebounding. We feel pretty good about where we are offensively and what we can do on that end of the court, but we've just got to be a little stingier defensively."

Butler said while her team didn't play well in its last few games, her players are confident and excited about what's coming up.

"They get it. Although we had a really tough February, there's no question we still finish in the top four in the best league in the country. The competition in this league night in and night out is just the best. I think that's exciting. It's not intimidating it's exciting. As a competitor that's what you want, to go into conference play feeling good about the thought of going against the best."

While this is Butler's second season as the Gator coach, it's the fourth and final season for Sha Brooks, Marshae Dotson, Aneika Henry and Kim Critton.

"For our seniors one of the things that has been a discussion point all year long is, ‘what's their legacy going to be'? This is a program still that's never won an SEC Championship."

Auburn won the SEC Championship with a 12-2 conference record and is the highest ranked SEC team at No. 6. Vanderbilt (No. 21) and Tennessee (No. 23) are also ranked while LSU and Mississippi State also receive votes.

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  • Brooks needs 28 points to become the fifth Gators to score 1,800 points

  • Dotson needs 26 to become the 10th Gator to score 1,500 points

  • Florida's 23 wins is the most since the Gators went 24-6 in 2001. No Florida team has ever won more than 24 games in a season. Florida won 24 games in 1995 and '97. Butler was a senior point guard on the first team and a graduate assistant coach on the second.



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