Florida Lady Gators
| MESSAGE BOARD
RECORD: 19 - 11
REGION: Midwest SEED: 5
COACH: Carolyn Peck CONFERENCE: SEC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
This team is well-coached, and like any Carolyn Peck team, loves to rebound, play up-tempo and get after you on the defensive end. But make no mistake. Vanessa Hayden is this team's anchor, and the Gators will go as far as she'll take them.
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
The 6-foot-4 senior is easily one of the top centers in the game, and among the 16 finalists -- alongside such marquee names as Taurasi and Beard -- for the inaugural Wooden Award to honor the nation's top player. A guaranteed double-double, Hayden is averaging 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. She brings it defensively, too, blocking 3.6 shots per game. Hayden led the SEC in rebounding, double-doubles (16) and blocks (99) while ranking third in scoring. For her 105-game career, Hayden has tallied 1,544 points (14.7 career average), 1,088 rebounds (10.4 average) and 349 blocks (3.3 average). Florida was missing from the NCAA Tournament field last season, but here's your chance to get one final look at Hayden before she takes her skills to the WNBA.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
What do you get when you bring together the confident intelligence of Carolyn Peck and the conditioned, powerhouse body of Vanessa Hayden to Division I basketball? A program turnaround which ranks as the best in team history and twice as many wins as the previous season.
With a wingspan stretching 84 inches, Hayden has finally bought into Peck's system. Throughout the season, Hayden has ranked nationally in scoring, rebounding and blocks while tallying more than 15 double-doubles already -- now that's a feat! She has incredible hands, soft touch and awesome mobility for someone of her stature. The best part of Hayden's game, however, is that she is imposing both offensively and defensively. Many coaches who have faced Hayden this season believe she is one of, if not the best, post players in the country.
Florida also wouldn't have made the transition without the play of junior forward Tashia Morehead. While she does her own share of scoring and rebounding, Morehead also has a natural chemistry with Hayden -- they were teammates as high-schoolers on the same AAU team in Florida.
Also stay tuned in for the play of sophomore forward Bernice Mosbey. She is the undying spark plug off the bench for Florida, and there is little drop off in scoring or rebounding when she enters the game. From a defensive focus, be prepared for sophomore guard Danielle Santos to look after the opposition's most dangerous scoring threat. Every team needs a player like Santos and the energy she exudes.
Pay attention to Florida's overall inside presence at both ends of the floor. The Lady Gators brilliantly polish the boards to rank first in the conference, while also blocking a ton of shots at the other end, which can be somewhat intimidating for challengers.
With so much emphasis coming from the paint, however, be wary of the fact that sharp-shooting opponents have had good success stroking the deep ball versus the Gators -- 35 percent accuracy from downtown to be exact. Florida must continue feeding its power game, but more importantly, put up a strong defensive stance in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, if anyone knows how to do this, it's Peck.