Gator women top Duquesne, win tourney

Florida forward Jennifer George watches a shot during the Gators' game against Duquesne in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Wednesday.

Steven Keys/Correspondent
Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 12:34 a.m.

Led by tournament MVP Jennifer George's fourth straight double-double, the Florida Gators captured the championship of the 21st Annual Gator Holiday Classic with a hard-fought 62-49 win over Duquesne Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center.

With the victory, UF improved to 9-3 while the Dukes, off to their best start in history, slipped to 10-2.

“I'm really proud of the way we played,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “Duquesne is a very, very good team; a well-coached team and a team that is definitely a contender in the A-10. This was a big win for us for a lot of reasons.”

Joining George (15 points, 13 rebounds) in double figures for the Gators were senior guard Jordan Jones, who led all players with 18 points, and sophomore guard Jaterra Bonds, who added 16.

The first half was an offensive struggle, as both teams shot less than 30 percent from the field with UF somehow holding a 22-21 halftime lead despite having more turnovers (eight) than field goals (seven).

The pace picked up considerably, though, after intermission. A three-pointer by Jones keyed an 11-0 Gator run to open the second half, and when George converted a layup to make it 37-25 Florida with 15:02 left to play, the Gators were sitting pretty. But Duquesne (10-2), which received votes in the most recent Top 25 poll, was up to the challenge, and responded with a 9-0 run keyed by 6-3 sophomore Orsi Szecsi to close within 37-34 midway through the half.

Bonds, who had to leave the contest in the opening three minutes after turning her ankle but returned and played 30 of the game's 40 minutes, hit a 15-foot jumper and a trey to spark a 9-2 Gator spurt that built the lead back to 10, 46-36, with 8:16 remaining.

Duquesne did get within five, 50-45, with 4:11 left, but the Gators outscored the Dukes, who finished the night 0-of-19 from three-point range, 12-4 down the stretch to post the win and earn the tournament title for the 17th time.

“I just had to suck it up and come back,” said Bonds. “When we were in the huddle late in the game and we were up by five, Jordan and Azania (Stewart) said, ‘We're not going to lose this game. We've all got to dig in,' and that's what we did.”

“It wasn't the prettiest of ballgames, and this is what we talked about in the locker room,” Butler said. “In a sense, you always look at things and you wish you would have done this better or that better or whatever, but you also look at a win like this over an opponent like this and playing the way we did, you get excited because you know your best basketball is ahead of you. That's what we're going to dwell on, and we're excited to call ourselves champions tonight and be able to go home for a couple of days and celebrate with our families and come back and get back to work.”

UF's George, Bonds and Jones were joined on the All-Tournament team by Duquesne's Szecsi, who led the Dukes with 15 points, and Charleston Southern's Rachelle Coward, who poured in a tournament-best 30 points to lead the Buccaneers (7-4) to a 78-63 win over Maine (3-9) in the third-place game.

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