Gators Sweep SEC Weekly Awards, Needles and Christinaki Honored

For the first time since December 3, 2013, one school has swept the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball weekly awards.

Fueled by the outstanding performances of redshirt senior Carlie Needles and freshman Eleanna Christinaki, who were recognized as the SEC Player and Freshman of the Week, respectively, Florida earned that honor, the league office announced Tuesday.

Last week, the Gators toppled No. 12/11 Tennessee, 74-65, in Knoxville on Thursday, before blitzing Ole Miss, 85-65, in Oxford on Sunday. As a result of those SEC road wins, coupled with the team’s impressive non-conference performance, Florida earned its first ranking in the national Associated Press Top-25 poll since the final 2008-09 listing, checking in at No. 20 on Monday when the poll was released.

Needles’ Week – at a Glance:

  • Had the best week of her collegiate career
  • Drew strong praises from her coaches for her leadership in the days leading up to and during the road game against No. 12/11 Tennessee, as Head Coach Amanda Butler was away from the team due to a family emergency.
  • Scored all of her 15 points against the Lady Vols from the three-point arc, where she hit 5-of-8, while also recording four rebounds and three assists.
  • With the Gators holding a four-point lead in Knoxville, Needles drilled her fifth three-pointer of the game that gave UF a 69-62 lead with 3:16 to go.
  • Her three-pointer in the third quarter against UT ignited a 7-0 run over a 50-second span late in the period and took a 50-49 lead with 1:39 remaining and eventually tied the game entering the final frame.
  • Scored all of her 11 points (FIRST HALF: 4-4 FG, 1-1 3PT, 2-2 FT) at Ole Miss during the first half, when she helped Florida build a commanding 53-30 halftime lead.
  • Instrumental during UF’s game-changing 27-4 run in the first quarter versus the Rebels, when she scored seven points
  • Scored in double-figures for three consecutive games, just the second time in her career she has done so. She also went for three straight double-figure scoring games during her sophomore year against Troy, Saint Francis and Tennessee State. Needles’ current run has come against No. 8 Mississippi State, No. 12/11 Tennessee and now at Ole Miss. She also contributed six rebounds and four steals against the Rebels, who were celebrating the opening of their new arena.
  • This is the first time in her career Needles has earned an SEC honor

Christinaki’s Week – at a Glance:

  • In the first two SEC road games of her career, Christinaki nearly averaged a double-double in two victories, with 11.0 points and 9.0 assists per game
  • In the upset at No. 12/11 Tennessee, Christinaki scored a game-high 18 points on 8-of-16 field goals, with 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
  • Three days later she dished a career and game-high 10 assists and helped the Gators earn their second SEC road win of the season.
  • Scored during a 7-0 run over a 49-second span against Tennessee and the Gators turned a one-point deficit, 58-57, into a 64-58 lead with seven minutes remaining. Also part of an 8-0 run in the second quarter that brought UF within one, 25-24.
  • This is the second time Christinaki has been recognized with the SECs’ weekly award, also garnering the freshman honor December 15, 2015
  • Christinaki was named on Monday the Madness SEC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, by College Sports Madness

 Quoting UF Head Coach Amanda Butler:

  • On Eleanna Christinaki, who is from Athens, Greece:
  • “The thing that’s most unique about Eleanna and what most demonstrates her maturity is her ability to adjust. Her adjustment to a different lifestyle, a different country, a different way of playing basketball, a different set of teammates, a different set of coaches – and try to adapt in a way where she’s not just blending, but she’s adding to that group in a way in a positive manner. She wants to be coached all the time. She understands on a much higher level what we expect from her now than what she did a few months ago. Her ability to adjust is something that eludes people of all ages and for someone who is just a freshman – that really makes her stand out.”

On Carlie Needles’ growth:

  • “Carlie is just tough. She’s a worker. She’s selfless and at the same time she’s got a lot of pride. She’s going to do whatever it takes for her team to win. She also likes the opportunity to guard the ball up the floor every time. She wants the ball in her hand if there’s a big shot to be made. She’s the voice of our team in practice and often in huddles. She has a tremendous belief in herself and I think she’s had some great role models along the way. As a younger player, teammates like Jaterra Bonds really showed her what court toughness and practice toughness looked like. She’s smart, so during those younger years when she was also contributing she was observing and knowing, “wow, here’s a tremendous leader.” Lanita Bartley was another great competitor who she had a chance to observe and I think she soaked up as much of them as she possibly could that helped form who she wanted to be.”

Florida’s Week – at a Glance:

  • Thursday’s win at Tennessee was just the program’s fourth all-time win against the Lady Vols and the only the second ever in Knoxville.
  • UF’s win at Ole Miss was the team’s 14th victory of the season, surpassing last year’s entire win total.
  • The Gators now sport a 5-1 road record this year, with a 2-0 mark on neutral courts.
  • UF’s 14-2 overall record is tied for the second-best 16-game record in program history.
  • Ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press national poll, the program’s first appearance in the ranking since the end of the 2008-09 season.

What’s Next for the Gators:

  • Who: Georgia at Florida
  • When: Thursday, January 14 * 7 p.m. ET
  • Where: Stephen C. O’Connell Center * Gainesville, FL

Special Game Day Promotions:

  • Long Sleeve Gators Basketball T-shirts: The first 500 fans in attendance will receive a free Gators Basketball long sleeve t-shirt!
  • Rally Towels: The first 1000 fans in attendance will receive rally towels courtesy of UF Health!
  • Free Pizza for Students: Students – arrive early, we’ll have free pizza for the first 100 students in attendance!
  • UF Health Ticket Deal: All UF Health employees can get free admission to the game with their Gator 1 ID!
  • Rowdy Reptile Check-In: Students – check-in with the Rowdy Reptiles Rewards app and earn points towards great prizes all year long!

Coach Amanda Butler on Twitter