UF WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
UF tops Auburn
Published: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 29, 2004 at 11:46 p.m.
Florida overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and outscored No. 18 Auburn 45-24 in the second half to post a 71-60 victory at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in the regular season finale for both teams.
With the victory, the Gators (18-9, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) locked up the No. 4 seed in this week's SEC Tournament and receives a first-round bye.
Florida plays the winner of the first-round game between Georgia and South Carolina on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Senior All-American Vanessa Hayden led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, while grabbing five rebounds and blocking six shots.
But as impressive as Hayden was for the Gators, the victory was a team effort. Bernice Mosby was instrumental in the second-half comeback, finishing the game with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Danielle Santos added 11 points and dished a career-high seven assists with only one turnover.
"It was heart and grit that won this game," UF coach Carolyn Peck said. "We got a little frustrated in the first half when Auburn made their run and we were down 10. But we talked about it in the locker room, and we knew we had overcome this kind of deficit before."
The Gators shots 53.8 percent (14-26) in the second half against an Auburn defense that ranked third nationally for opponent field goal percentage and that held its foes to a 32.4 percent clip. UF shot 41.7 percent for the game from the floor, while hitting 12 of 18 from the free throw line.
"It took a little while for us to get rolling, but once we did things started flowing," Peck said. "We regrouped in the second half and the tide started to turn in our favor. We stayed aggressive.
"I cannot say enough about Bernice Mosby's performance in the second half. Vanessa was outstanding and made some great decisions on the block. I hate to talk about her passing ability, but she's a great passer."
Le'Coe Willingham led the Tigers with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Mandisa Stevenson added 10 points and 12 rebounds, as Auburn (21-7, 9-5 SEC) outrebounded the Gators 52-40 but shot just 28.2 percent (20-of-71) from the flooring during the game, including a 17.6 percent (6-of-34) effort in the decisive second half when Florida outscored the Tigers 45-24.
"We broke down in the second half," Willingham said. "Florida put up a few threes back to back, and our shots just didn't drop. We knew they would make a run, but we didn't seem to get our own run together."
Tashia Morehead led Florida in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring nine straight points as the Gators exploded on a 27-12 spurt out of the locker room to erase a 36-25 deficit and take a 53-48 lead with 8:40 remaining.
"Everything that could go wrong in that half did go wrong," Auburn coach Joe Ciampi said. "The first few minutes of the second half were crucial. We just didn't turn the corner and finish."
Hayden powered her way for 10 tough points in the paint during the run, while Santos spread the Auburn defense by scoring eight points from the perimeter, including a 3-pointer with 10:16 remaining in the game that gave UF a 49-46 lead and they would never trail again.
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