UF women rally past visiting LSU
Published: Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 11:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 11:45 p.m.
Call it an early test of mettle, and the Florida Gators passed with flying colors.
Florida at Mississippi State, Thursday, 8 p.m.
UF overcame a nine-point, second-half deficit as well as the loss of senior star Jennifer George to injury to post a thrilling 77-72 victory over visiting LSU before a season-high crowd of 1,575 Sunday at the O'Connell Center.
The win, Florida's 15th in a row at home and seventh straight Southeastern Conference victory in the O-Dome dating back to last season, improved head coach Amanda Butler's squad to 12-4, 1-1 while the Tigers slipped to 10-5, 1-1.
“I think we beat a very good team; that's the first thing I'd like to make real clear,” said Butler, who picked up career win No. 150 as well as win No. 110 at UF.
“LSU has a great squad and is a postseason team. It was important for us to get them here and take care of our business on our own court.”
The Gators came out strong, with George scoring the first seven points of the game as UF streaked to an early 10-2 lead, but the Tigers rallied behind the play of senior guard Bianca Lutley from Pensacola and 6-foot-5 junior center Theresa Plaisance to take a 44-36 halftime lead.
Junior point guard Jaterra Bonds keyed an 11-4 UF run to open the second half, capped by her 18-foot jumper to cut the Tigers' lead to one, 48-47, with 16:38 remaining, and from there the two teams traded punches.
LSU led by as many as nine, 58-49, on a Lutley jumper with 11:46 left before George, Bonds and redshirt sophomore Kayla Lewis responded by igniting a 13-4 Gator run that knotted the score at 62-all with 6:09 left.
A minute later, George, who had already recorded her 26th career double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds), grabbed a loose ball and was fouled hard under her own basket, falling awkwardly on her right arm. After some delay, she was helped to the locker room and did not return to action with an undisclosed shoulder injury.
Her teammates, however, refused to be denied. Bonds scored seven of her game-high 19 points over the final four minutes, and 5-foot-6 redshirt freshman Carlie Needles came up with her first career block on a potential game-tying 3-pointer from LSU's Adrienne Webb with 12 seconds left and UF up 73-70.
Needles not only blocked the shot, but gained possession of the ball, was fouled and sank both free throws to put the Gators up by five.
“Coach always tells me out on the 3-point line to stay up on my feet, and I really didn't even try to block it,” Needles said. “I was just trying to get up, and not letting her get that three was a big stop for us.”
Webb hit a baseline jumper with four ticks remaining to make it 75-72, but Bonds was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and drained both free throws with 3.4 seconds left to seal the deal.
“It feels great, especially with all the adversity that we had,” said Bonds. “Even when George left, we were still able to grind it out together and finish.”
Lewis had 10 points and six rebounds for UF, which shot 26-of-56 from the floor (46.4 percent), was 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the charity stripe and outrebounded the taller Tigers by a 39-32 margin.
LSU placed four players in double figures led by Plaisance (17 points) and Lutley (16).
“To Florida's credit, I felt like they executed better down the stretch,” said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell. “Even when we got a lead, they didn't give in. They stayed together, they created the hustle plays that they needed and they were able to come away with the win.”
The Gators take on Mississippi State (8-7, 0-2) Thursday night in Starkville before returning to Gainesville for a three-game SEC homestand beginning with a nationally televised game (ESPNU) against No. 12 Tennessee (11-3, 2-0) Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
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