|NCAA women's tourney preview: Ohio State vs, Florida (3-16-12)|
|Written by By JACK CARLE Sentinel Sports Editor|
|Friday, 16 March 2012 12:37|
Bowling Green is about 125 miles away from the Ohio State campus.
However, Jim Foster’s OSU head women’s basketball coach, is not pleased with making the trip to the Stroh Center this weekend for the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes (25-6) face Florida (19-12) Sunday with tipoff at 12:15 p.m.
Foster is upset the Buckeyes were only a No. 8 seed for the tournament.
“In 26 years of being involved in this tournament, this is the most egregious thing I have witnessed,” Foster said. “We finished second in our league, had eight wins against the RPI top 50, finished the non-conference 13-0, reached the semifinals of our conference tournament and feature the Big Ten player of the year in Samantha Prahalis.
“We beat some very good teams who finished in the top third of their league in LSU, Oklahoma and California — two of those on the road. This team deserves much better than the seed we were dealt.”
If Ohio State beats Florida, the Buckeyes will play the Baylor-UC Santa Barbara winner Tuesday at 7 p.m., also in the Stroh Center.
“We’re still excited to be in the tournament and to have the opportunity to take on a very good SEC opponent in Florida,” Foster said. “If we can win, then we get the opportunity to take on a great team in Baylor and go up against a great player in Brittney Griner.”
Ohio State has two of the top guards in the country — Tayler Hill, a 5-10 junior; and Prahalis, a 5-7 senior.
Hill is averaging 20.3 points per game, while shooting 41.6 percent on 3-pointers (79-of-190).
Prahalis is averaging 20.1 points and 6.4 assists per game. Prahalis, the only senior on the OSU roster, can also shoot the 3-pointer, making 62-of-176 (35.2 percent).
Ashley Adams, a 6-5 sophomore, leads the team in rebounding at 6.7 per game.
Amber Stokes, a 5-10 redshirt junior, was the Big Ten defensive player of the year.
As a team, the Buckeyes are averaging 75.1 ppg while allowing 62.6.
Florida has played some tight games, with 10 of their 12 losses coming by six points or less.
“This team has had that idea right there in the forefront of their mind all season long. Game one loss versus Michigan all the way through the SEC tournament and this is absolutely what they deserved,” said Florida head coach Amanda Butler. “It’s just fun. There’s so many tense moments, so many disappointing moments, great moments, hard moments, a lot of hard work that goes in.”
Butler knows the way to Bowling Green. She was a junior on Florida’s 1993 team who defeated the Falcons 69-67 in an NCAA tournament game at venerable Anderson Arena.
“When things historically overlap like that it’s fun to talk about,” Butler said. “It’s a great place where girls’ and women’s basketball is important.”
The Gators’ Jennifer George, a 6-0 junior, became a force this season, averaging 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Her rebound average was second in the Southeastern Conference.
Jordan Jones, a 5-9 redshirt senior, is averaging 11.6 ppg and is shooting 34.9 percent on 3-pointers (66-of-189).
The Gators are a bruising rebounding team, averaging 42.5 rebounds per game. In addition to George’s 9.0 rpg, Azania Stewart, a 6-4 senior, is averaging 5.6 rpb, and Lanita Bartley, a 5-6 senior, is averaging 5.1 rpg
Bartley leads the team with 3.2 assists per game.
Florida was one of the last four teams to be selected for the tournament and may have been the last of the 64 teams picked.
“I don’t care — last four in, first four in — we’re in and that’s all that matters at this point,” Jones said. “I’m thankful we’re in and that’s all I have to say about that.”
Butler said her team got better later in the season.
“They played at a consistent high level all throughout January and February, and I think that was certainly a factor,” Butler said.
The Gators also played a tough schedule.
“We tell our team at the beginning of the year that we’re doing this on purpose. This isn’t just we have a bunch of games we happen to be playing against good teams,” Butler said. “We have a purpose to prepare us first and foremost for the SEC season because we know how grueling and competitive that’s going to be and then give us a chance at an at-large opportunity if that’s what our fate is.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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