Morale high as Gators seek second conference win versus Volunteers


Florida's victory against rival Georgia Sunday snapped a five-game skid and finally gave the Gators their first conference win. Several players say they've felt an increase in team morale during practice this week. Now, it's time to keep that momentum going as they host Tennessee Thursday night.

"Well, it always feels good to get that first win," forward Ronni Williams said. "And so getting that first win just made us happy. It was like, 'okay, we got our first win under our belt, now we ready to roll."

Said guard Sydney Morang: "It was a good momentum change for us. We worked really hard the week before so it was good -- something we needed and definitely worked for."

The Gators have limited turnovers during their last two games: They totaled 11 against Texas A&M and 14 against UGA. Florida had averaged 20.1 turnovers per game before those two contests.

"For us to be at least under 15 is a huge deal for us," guard Dyandria Anderson said. "It means that everybody's making their passes. Everybody's getting their passes. No crazy things are happening and we're controlling the ball, which is what we need to do."

Tennessee is the best rebounding team in the conference, averaging 40.1 boards per game. But, a lot of the Gators' focus goes toward stopping Vols center Mercedes Russell, who leads UT in almost every statistic.

"Mercedes Russell is having the best year of her career so far and is really a force in our league," head coach Amanda Butler said. "We have to do a really, really good job in the paint with her -- and with all of them. They're all very effective in the paint."

UF freshman Elif Portakal will lace up again Thursday night after missing the last 10 games with a foot injury.

Her return to the lineup against Georgia wasn't eye-catching -- she had three points in seven minutes -- but she provides quality minutes as the only true point guard on the roster. Butler said Portakal also provides a break for Anderson, who is naturally an off-guard.

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