Bonds, Lewis lead Florida past Mississippi State
Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 4:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 4:53 p.m.
DULUTH, Ga. — Jaterra Bonds scored 18 points, Kayla Lewis added 17 and Florida beat Mississippi State 71-67 in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
The fifth-seeded Gators (19-11) will play No. 12 Kentucky, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, today.
“I’m just proud of (my players) for the battle and resilience they showed, never doubting, even when we gave the lead up, to just bounce back, trust their teammates, their coaches and the process,” said Florida coach Amanda Butler, who celebrated her 42nd birthday on Thursday.
Kendra Grant finished with 14 points and Katia May had 12 for Mississippi State (19-13), which failed to advance past the second round for the 10th time in 11 years. The Bulldogs have lost nine straight to Florida.
Cassie Peoples’ 3-pointer in the final minute of first half gave Gators their biggest lead at 15.
Florida was outscored 20-8 over a nearly 9-minute span of the second half and trailed 56-55 on Jerica James’ 3-pointer. But the Gators led for the final 7:32 after Peoples hit a jumper.
Florida’s Antoinette Bannister scored 10 points in her collegiate postseason debut.
Thursday’s win was the fourth consecutive year the Gators have won their first game in the SEC Tournament. Florida is now 19-33 all-time in SEC Tournament games, including 5-6 under Butler.
Florida won both regular-season games against today’s opponent, Kentucky.
“We know it will be a great contest,” Butler said. “Again, one of the best teams not just in the league but in the country. Another fantastic opportunity for us.”
UF Communications contributed to this report.