tampabay.com

Coach knows what it means to beat Tennessee

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published February 28, 2006


GAINESVILLE - It's a 35-minute drive from Carolyn Peck 's childhood home in Jefferson City, Tenn., to Thompson-Boling Arena. She grew up watching current Vols assistant Holly Warlick play. Her father kept a Tennessee poster up in their home during football season. As a young assistant, she spent two years working under legendary coach Pat Summitt .

So the significance of what happened in Knoxville on Sunday wasn't lost on Florida's fourth-year coach. Unranked Florida defeated then-No.5 Tennessee on its homecourt 95-93 in overtime.

It was just the second time the Gators defeated Tennessee and the first in 16 tries in Knoxville. With the win, Florida became the first unranked team to beat the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena and earned its first 20-win season since 2000-01.

"That was probably one of the funnest games that I've been a part of, especially being from Tennessee," Peck said. "I was extremely proud of our whole entire team."

It has been a strange two weeks for the Gators. On Feb.16, they defeated then-No.2 LSU in Gainesville and three days later lost by 15 at Auburn. They rebounded with Sunday's win - on senior day.

"(Sunday) was amazing," senior guard Sarah Lowe said Monday morning. "We upset LSU, but in contrast to that victory, there were about 20,000 people in the arena (Sunday) essentially cheering against you. ... It was my first time (beating Tennessee) and only the second time in program history. So you can imagine what that felt like for all of us. We beat two potential (NCAA) No.1 seeds, and we beat Tennessee on their home floor. That's huge. Not a lot of teams can say that."

Lowe, who played 45 minutes and did not commit a turnover, said the Gators' philosophy all season has been to let defense generate its offense, which is precisely what happened. Florida forced the Vols into a season-high 28 turnovers. Freshman Sha Brooks had 25 points and earned the SEC freshman of the week award for the fourth time this season, most among true freshman. (Tennessee's Candace Parker , a redshirt freshman, has won it five times).

A Vanderbilt graduate, Peck is well aware Tennessee is the standard in women's basketball. She hopes the victory will have a long-lasting effect.

"It's something our seniors will remember forever," Peck said. "But I hope also it's something our underclassmen can take and understand the hard work and dedication it took our seniors to get to where they are so they put that same amount of work in for years to come."

The Gators (20-7, 8-6) are the No.5 seed in the SEC tournament and play Mississippi State on Thursday.

ONE LAST HURRAH: Senior forward Adrian Moss will play his final home game Wednesday night and might be in the starting lineup. Moss has started 23 games in his career, but this would be his first this season.

"I would love to start Moss," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Unless he tells me he doesn't want to start, I would like to start Moss."

The Gators are on a three-game losing streak and host Georgia on Wednesday. Donovan said many of the problems the Gators are having are the same they had earlier in the season. The difference is the competition wasn't as good and the Gators were winning.

"Our basketball team has played with energy, passion and enthusiasm," Donovan said. "At this time of year, those things keep you around in games, but they are not good enough to win the game. Our guys need to figure out what is causing them to be so close.

"They are playing hard, playing unselfish and doing the right things team-wise. I respect the way they play, but it is not good enough to beat good teams. And that is where I think we're at."

--Antonya English covers Florida athletics. She can be reached at 813 226-3389 or english@sptimes.com