UF women's basketball team wins a thriller

Florida's coach Amanda Butler talks to Lanita Bartley (3) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina Sunday Jan. 9, 2011, at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C. Bartley scored the winning basket to defeat South Carolina 65-63.

Published: Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 8:12 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Lanita Bartley stole the inbounds pass underneath Florida's basket and converted a three-point play with 16.7 seconds remaining to help Florida to a 65-63 win Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.

In a tight game that featured 13 lead changes and nine tied scores, Florida collected its first true road win of the season and improved to 12-5 overall and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

With Florida holding its largest lead of 56-52 with 5:46 remaining, Valerie Nainima nailed back-to-back 3-pointers and gave South Carolina (9-7, 1-2 SEC) a two-point edge with 3:08 to play.

Azania Stewart came back and hit a tough inside jumper and tied the score at 59-all before a pair of Gamecock free throws swung the advantage back to the hosts with 2:16 left.

Jordan Jones, who began her career at South Carolina, stepped up and worked for a 3-pointer from the right side with 1:31 remaining to give the Gators a 62-61 lead.

La'Keisha Sutton followed with a driving layup and swung the lead again at 1:11 on the clock.

Florida turned the ball over on its ensuing offensive possession and South Carolina missed its shot attempt at the other end, giving the Gators the ball with 36 seconds remaining.

Florida missed its attempt and South Carolina got the ball on the side of the court, setting up Bartley's heroics.

South Carolina raced down the court to try and tie the game, but Ndidi Madu collected Walker's miss and tipped the ball to Stewart, who was fouled. The Gator junior missed the front end of the one-and-one from the free throw line with six seconds remaining, giving the Gamecocks a little hope.

“We had huge plays down the stretch from some individuals,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “I'm so proud of Lanita because she hadn't played an especially good ballgame, but every time she came to the bench I kept telling her ‘you're going to make the play. We just need you to stay intense and ready.' It just so happens that she gets the huge and-one at the end that puts us ahead. I'm so proud of our composure at the end of the game because we practice late-game situations every day and I'm sure the team gets tired of it, but this is why you do it. It was just a reaction at the end.”

South Carolina's final attempt resulted in its 10th turnover of the game.

Madu led Florida with a career-high 17 points, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-3 free throws in 22 minutes of action. Jaterra Bonds added 11 points, as eight different Gators contributed offensively.

“Ndidi did a great job of shooting her shots,” Butler praised. “She shot the shots she practices every day and she knocked most of them down today.”

Florida shot a season-high 56.5 percent (26-46) in the game, including 3-of-9 from the three-point arc and 10-of-16 from the free throw line. The Gators also won the rebounding battle, 33-24, led by 10 from Jennifer George, who also contributed six points, three assists and a pair of steals.

The Gators next play host to No. 5 Tennessee at 7 p.m. Thursday. ET. The game will be televised live by Comcast Sports South, while the radio broadcast can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5.

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