Gators hold off second-half rally in 72-68 win

Sophomore January Miller led Florida with 17 points. She was one of three Gators to shoot in double-figures.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.

The Florida Gators parlayed a season-high, first-half shooting effort of 53.1 percent (17-of-32) into a 43-25 halftime lead and then withstood a spirited second-half comeback from visiting St. John’s to take an exciting 72-68 win in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday night.

“I just thought we had a great mental approach and a great deal of toughness in this ball game throughout, even when things didn’t go our way,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “Everybody stepped up and made plays at different times that made the momentum shift or put the point differential in a place where we had control. It was a great team win against a very, very good team.”

The Gators (4-2), who never trailed in the game, extended their lead to 21 points at 50-29 with 17:58 to play and were still looking good, up 61-46 with 10:22 left.

But St. John’s (4-1) went on a 14-1 run to whittle the lead to just two, 62-60, with 5:55 remaining and set the stage for a frantic finish.

A big three-point play moments later by sophomore January Miller, who led the Gators with 17 points, put UF up by five.

Redshirt junior Kayla Lewis came up with three clutch rebounds in the last 45 seconds, two of them on the offensive end, and she and redshirt sophomore Cassie Peoples each swished a pair of free throws in the final 15.8 seconds to seal the deal.

“It was crazy,” Miller said. “We just needed to dig down on defense, and we had enough fight to finish it out.”

Sophomore Christin Mercer had 16 points and seven rebounds and senior Jaterra Bonds added 13 points for UF, while sophomore Aliyyah Handford (18 points) and senior Brianna Brown (17) led St. John’s.

The Gators now head for the Bahamas and the 2013 Junkanoo Jam. Florida faces Illinois State on Friday at 1 p.m. and will take on either Oregon State or No. 12 Penn State Saturday at 11:30 a.m. (if they lose) or 1:45 p.m. (if they win).

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