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Tuesday November 13, 2012Amanda Butler focusing on No. 101 ... and the Seminoles

Updated: 1:27pm, November 13

Amanda and mask

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Amanda Butler was touched by all the well-wishes that came here way Sunday after her Florida women’s basketball team dispatched of Georgia State 84-65 at the O’Connell Center.

The win gave Butler her 100th victory since returning to coach her alma mater in 2007.

“It was nice and it was humbling to get so many messages and texts and Facebook posts,” Butler allowed Monday after her team improved to 2-0. “But the reality is No. 101 is what’s important.”

No surprise that Butler would choose to divert attention from a personal milestone to the mission of her team. And let’s face, the next one is always what coaches are thinking about, and that would be the case for Butler even if her Gators were facing an Under-8 squad from the 34th Street YMCA.

But in UF’s case, the next one happens to be Florida State on the road Thursday night.

Butler is 4-5 all-time against the Seminoles; 2-2 as a player (with both losses in overtime) and 2-3 in her five seasons as coach.

Amanda mask/mug shotTo understand what the rivalry means to her, let’s rewind to 1993, Butler’s junior year, when she suffered a broken nose and black eye taking a charge in a win at LSU on Jan. 30 and the team's doctor ruled her out of the next game.

“No way,” Butler declared. “It’s Florida State. I’m playing.”

Three days later, the UF medical staff gave Butler 10 numbing shots to reset her nose, and 24 hours later she was on the court wearing a Bill Laimbeer-like polyester mask seen in these photos. Butler was only supposed to play in an emergency -- and the fact the game was close at halftime qualified as such.

She came off the bench to start the second half, played all 20 minutes and finished with six points (on 3-for-3 shooting) and three assists in a 81-78 victory over the Seminoles.   

“Toughest player I’ve ever coached,” then-UF coach Carol Ross said.

Butler wants that toughness to be a trait of her teams, with the 2012-13 squad in the process of forging that identity behind senior forward Jennifer George, junior point guard Jaterra Bond and six scrappy freshmen learning on the fly.

Their next lesson comes in Tallahassee against a veteran FSU squad, led by forward Chastity Clayton and point guard Morgan Toles, a transfer from Auburn.

“This will be a really unique experience for our freshmen. Not just to play a real game on the road, but in that environment and with the pressure and intensity the rivalry brings,” Butler said. “Our returners know what it feels like, know what to expect. ... We can’t have a more experienced team against our less experienced team be a factor. We have to play Florida basketball.”

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