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To UF, Vols just a team in the way

Gators trying not to think about UT's history before tonight's key women's battle.

By DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- For guard Tombi Bell, tonight's match-up isn't about respect. It's not about measuring up. And it's not about getting revenge.

Bell and the Florida women face Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee at the O'Connell Center at 5 p.m., and the Volunteers mean only one thing to the Gators.

"They're just another team that's in our way," Bell said.

"They're a good team, and of course many people would like to play them. Fortunately we get to play them every year, but I don't really think they're much better than Georgia. The media says they are, but I've watched film, and I think Georgia should have actually beat them when they played in Tennessee."

Though Tennessee may be just one more team in the Gators' way, it has been in their way often in the past.

In the 28-game series, the Gators have defeated the Volunteers once, in 1997 in Gainesville.

This season, the Gators have lost one SEC game and are ranked No. 6, four spots behind Tennessee.

"Look at us; we weren't even in any preseason poll, so it doesn't matter," Naomi Mobley said. "A lot of times we don't get respect, but we are not concerned with that."

To get its 21st win, Florida will need to stop Michelle Snow, who has been averaging 10.9 points.

The Gators also will have to deal with Kara Lawson and Gwen Jackson, who have been averaging more than 11 points.

They also may be fighting history. Tennessee has six national titles and nine SEC titles.

But the Volunteers' championships and numbers are not important to Florida coach Carol Ross.

"Our goal all season has been to defend the O'Dome, so we pretty much have been singing that song all season," Ross said. "This is the same scenario, so hopefully we can get it done one more time."

Though she said she is not impressed with the Volunteers' record, Bell said the game still will mean something to her.

"I haven't beaten Tennessee since I've been here," Bell said. "It's just a big game, like I said, because they have Tennessee written across their chest, they seem to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It would mean a lot to me to go out beating two Top 10 teams in Georgia and Tennessee. So this game means a lot to me."

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