Ole Miss drops Florida in women's basketball


Florida's Kayla Lewis shoots the ball over Ole Miss' Monique Jackson (42) and Danielle McCray on Thursday.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 12:08 a.m.

The smallest player on the court Thursday night was the best.

Led by lightning-quick, 5-foot-4 junior point guard Valencia McFarland's 24 points, 10 assists and three steals — all game-high marks — visiting Ole Miss surprised Florida, 88-81, before an O'Connell Center crowd of 901, giving the Rebels (8-11, 1-5) their first Southeastern Conference win of the year while handing the Gators (13-7, 2-4) their third consecutive home league loss.

“Valencia is a dynamic point guard,” Ole Miss coach Brett Frank said. “She has the ability to take a game over. I thought she did that tonight.”

UF had dropped its previous two contests on its season-long, three-game SEC homestand to ranked opponents Tennessee (78-75, OT) and South Carolina (52-44) by a combined 11 points. While those losses were tough, they weren't as unexpected as Thursday night's defeat in which UF surrendered 50 first-half points to an Ole Miss team that came in averaging just 67 points a game.

“We just got outplayed in about every category today, which is certainly my fault,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “I clearly didn't do a good job of getting my team ready, but you've got to give Ole Miss a lot of credit for the way that they came here with confidence.”

The Rebels, who placed five players in double figures, finished the game with a season-high 11 3-pointers, including an almost perfect 9-for-10 effort in the opening 20 minutes that helped Ole Miss build a 17-point lead, 50-33, with 1:28 left in the first half before junior point guard Jaterra Bonds, who finished with 16 points, scored the last six points of the half to pull the Gators within 50-39 at the break.

UF did make several runs at the Rebels in the second half, getting within 68-63 on a Carlie Needles' 3-pointer with 8:35 left, within four (72-68) with 5:25 remaining on an offensive putback by senior Jennifer George and finally within three, 76-73, with 3:30 to play on a layup by redshirt sophomore Kayla Lewis, who led the Gators with a career-high 23 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with freshman Sydney Moss (seven each).

But McFarland hit a layup and, following a UF miss, grabbed the rebound, was fouled and connected on both free throws to extend the Ole Miss lead to seven, 80-73, with 2:38 remaining.

Two free throws by Moss, who finished with 12 points, cut the deficit to five, but McFarland sliced through the UF defense for another layup and then hit one of two from the charity stripe following another Gator miss to put the Rebels up 83-75 with only 1:06 left.

UF had one final gasp. Lewis scored after a steal to make it 87-81 with 15 seconds left, and an Ole Miss offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play gave the ball back to Florida. Freshman January Miller, who finished with 14 points to give UF four players in double figures, was fouled on a 3-point attempt with14.3 ticks on the clock, but proceeded to miss all three of her free throws, with the Rebels' Monique Jackson securing the rebound and hitting one of two from the charity stripe after being fouled to close out the scoring.

The Rebels, who were coming off a tough 73-72 home SEC loss to Missouri and are playing under a self-imposed postseason ban following the dismissal of former head coach Adrian Wiggins during the school's investigation into recruiting violations, were looking for something positive and got it.

Meanwhile the Gators, who shot just 38.5 percent from the field (30-of-78) and were only 3-for-14 behind the arc, are looking for answers.

“We dug ourselves a big hole in the first half,” said Lewis, who was 9-of-13 from the field. “We came back and got within a few points, but it was very frustrating.”

UF plays four of its next five SEC games on the road starting with Sunday's tilt at No. 14 Georgia.

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