Florida wants to change a trend
By Seth Traub, Special to CNNSI.com
The last time Florida beat a top-15 opponent -- at then-No. 9 Alabama on Dec. 10, 1998 -- the Gators were defeated in their next game by 20 points by unranked Illinois.
The last time they won against a ranked team was January, when the Gators defeated then-No. 20 Mississippi State at the O'Connell Center. Florida went on to lose four straight games by an average 14 points.
After upsetting No. 13 Penn State on Sunday, the No. 20 Gators (6-0) will look to end their post-big game losing trend and continue a few more streaks. UF has not lost to an in-state opponent in seven years, a span of 36 straight games. UF has never lost to Central Florida (3-3), its opponent Saturday, in 19 meetings.
The Gators are also in the midst of a six-game winning streak and an eight-game home winning streak, the third longest in program history.
"It's not too hard to look past them, we have beaten them pretty easily in the past," said senior Tombi Bell of UF's 20-point margin of victory against UCF. "But we know that any team can win on any day. We are on a mission and we are going to defend our home court."
After last season's Mississippi State game, the Gators were playing without guard Brandi McCain, who was rehabilitating a broken leg.
Now, McCain leads the team in scoring with an average 25.5 points a game, including a 28-point, nine-assist performance against Penn State.
"Knowing how good she is and stopping her are different things," coach Carol Ross said. "Brandi hasn't surprised anyone, it's just hard to stop her because she is getting her points in a variety of ways.
"Her scoring hasn't been our game plan, and regardless of what people do she will be able to adjust."
McCain and the Gators had enough motivation Sunday, as they almost ran over their coach coming out of the locker room before the game.
"I would hope the big win would inspire us to take care of business on our court," Ross said. "It is my job to make sure we are ready to play. Our main goal was not to beat Penn State, it's to defend our home, and we still have a hard road."
Not just another week
For Tennessee senior All-Americans Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall, preparations for this week's games against Memphis and Stanford may be a little different.
After all, they're graduating.
More than 50 family members and friends are scheduled to be in town for each player for Saturday's commencement, a day after the Vols play the Tigers and the day before they play the Cardinal.
"I am proud of both of these young ladies," Tennessee coach Pat Summit said. "They have proved their ability to balance everything and to set academics as a priority. They are both dedicated to developing their game and they are great leaders, but right now I think that they are leading best by example in the classroom."
Catchings is graduating with a degree in sport management and Randall in speech communications. They are the first players to graduate ahead of their class since forward Debbie Hawhee in December 1991, who was at the top of her class.
Both Catchings and Randall have been all-SEC academic honorees during their careers and will begin graduate school in January as they complete their eligibility.
"Tamika and Semeka have both made a commitment to academics, and are great role models in the community and proof that a student-athlete can balance both academics and sports," Summit said.
Seth Traub is a reporter for the Independent Florida Alligator, the student paper that serves the University of Florida.