Florida cruises by Holy Cross 84-52
Updated: Friday March 16, 2001 10:34 PM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Great guards are only part of the story for Florida. Naomi Mobley, Vanessa Hayden and the rest of the team's overlooked frontcourt proved it Friday night.
Mobley had 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds to help the third-seeded Gators overpower Holy Cross 84-52 in the first round of the West Regional.
"The early reports that we got about Florida being guard oriented were exaggerated and wrong," Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons said. "That's a very strong, very physical team inside."
Indeed, guards Brandi McCain and Tombi Bell were the stars most of the year for the Gators, who improved to 24-5 to match the program record for wins.
But Florida won this game on the inside. Hayden, the backup center, had 17 points and nine rebounds. Mobley, a 6-foot-2 power forward, fell just three rebounds short of the NCAA tournament rebounding record.
"We thought we might have an advantage on the inside," coach Carol Ross said. "Our posts have worked awfully hard all week long. I was very happy with how our players responded by defensively taking the game away from them."
With the victory over the 14th-seeded Crusaders (21-9), Florida will face No. 6 seed Washington on Sunday in the second round. The Huskies beat Old Dominion 67-65.
The Gators, who barely missed the tournament last year, returned with gusto, running to a 20-point lead in the first eight minutes in front of their home crowd. They pushed it as high as 25 in the first half, then opened the second with a 9-0 run for a 48-19 lead.
Most of the onslaught came courtesy of a simple strategy: Pound the ball inside to a slew of centers and forwards who were taller, bigger and more polished than those from Holy Cross.
"No, I wasn't surprised," Hayden said. "We had something in the post and we just wanted to go out and show that today."
Florida's starting center, Tamara Stocks, finished with 13 points and six rebounds, as the Gators outrebounded Holy Cross 48-27. Bell had six points and six assists, while McCain had a fairly quiet 14 points and four assists.
"Great players find other ways to contribute," Ross said.
Katie O'Keefe had 13 points to lead the Crusaders, who won the Patriot League and made their fourth straight NCAA appearance. Gibbons got his money's worth from the trip, stomping the floor and haranguing the officials -- all very entertaining, but not overly effective.
"In the first half, I just felt bad for our kids, because they were overmatched," Gibbons said.
Susan Altman had eight points for Holy Cross, which shot just 32
percent, as it remained without an NCAA victory since 1991.