By JILL MARTIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2003
GAINESVILLE -- There is no question injured center Vanessa Hayden would have helped Florida against No. 5 Tennessee.
But the Gators could have used five Haydens in the lineup Sunday to keep the game close. (Hayden has been sidelined since Dec. 7 with a sprained ankle and fractured fibula and is day to day.)
The Volunteers won 94-53 as Florida fell to 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference under first-year coach Carolyn Peck.
Florida (8-8) has not started 0-4 since 1986-87, a season in which the Gators finished 0-9 in the conference. The losing streak is the Gators' longest since 1999-2000.
"It's tough," said guard Tishona Gregory, one of two Gators with 12 points. "I think any time a team is on a losing streak it's tough on the coaching staff, it's tough on the players, but we have to rebound from the losses and we have to group together and just try to work things out."
The Gators are not just losing -- the past three games have not been competitive. Georgia, No. 10 Arkansas and Tennessee (14-3, 3-0) outscored Florida 283-160. With No. 2 LSU next, that slump could worsen.
"I think when you have a young team as a coach, it's all about having the patience and keeping the players from getting down on themselves," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "Carolyn is obviously a very experienced coach and knows how to get players ready, but she has a young team. I'm sure she'll teach every day."
Peck said her team is showing signs of improvement -- the Gators scored 36 in the second half after a 52-17 deficit at halftime.
"I don't ever believe there's only so much I can do," Peck said. "I'm going to do everything that I possibly can."
The key to the loss was more than the absence of Hayden, who averages 9.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Gators also had trouble with fundamentals. In the first half, Florida scored 12 from the field on 24 percent shooting. Tennessee had 11 offensive rebounds
"We were kind of passive in the first half, but the second half we came out and made the change," Gregory said.
The Volunteers led the attack with three-point shooting, making 11-of-16, including 4-of-5 from Shanna Zolman.
Gwen Jackson led the Volunteers with 32 points. Zolman added 19. For the Gators, Tampa's Bernice Mosby scored 12.
"When you don't have your best player and the player of Vanessa's caliber, it's going to hurt," Tennessee guard Kara Lawson said. "It's going to hurt you and they're pretty young inside without her there. She's really the anchor for their offense. Certainly I think they're struggling on the inside."