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Photo gallery courtesy Matthew Pendleton

Sunday March 21, 2010Women's Basketball Falls to Miami in WNIT Second Round, 77-64

Coral Gables, Fla.

Photo gallery courtesy Matthew Pendleton

The University of Florida women’s basketball team couldn’t overcome its first-half shooting woes and ended its season with a 77-64 loss at Miami in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Sunday afternoon at BankUnited Center.


Sophomore center Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) scored a team-high 18 points with six rebounds and a career-tying four assists, as she hit 7-of-10 from the floor, but it wasn’t enough to counter the Gators’ 29.2 percent shooting mark in the first half, when Miami (19-13) used a 15-2 run and managed to keep Florida at bay the rest of the way.


Senior Steffi Sorensen (Jacksonville, Fla.) scored all of her 15 points in the second half, as she capped her stellar two-year Gator career with 601 points, totaling 161 three-pointers, as five came in her collegiate finale.


“We had scoring droughts, didn’t have shots fall, didn’t shoot with confidence and didn’t play well in general in the first half,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “In the second half, we shot how we are capable of shooting, but when you’re playing a tough opponent on their home floor, it was too little, too late. You have to give Miami a lot of credit for how they played and how ready they were to capitalize on our errors. We just did a horrible job taking care of the basketball.”


The Gators (15-17) turned the ball over 18 times in the game, including 13 in the first half when Miami shot 40 percent from the floor and built a 32-21 halftime lead.


Florida found its shot in the second frame, hitting 47.2 percent (17-36), but the Hurricanes continued to crash the boards and came away with a 43-31 rebounding advantage that helped with multiple second-chance opportunities.


In addition to Sorensen playing her final game, the loss also marked the end of the collegiate basketball careers of Jennifer Mossor (Orlando, Fla.), Sharielle Smith (Bradenton, Fla.), Lonnika Thompson (New Orleans, La.) and Susan Yenser (Marietta, Ga.).


With five points on Sunday, Smith topped the 900-point plateau for her career, ending with 902, in addition to 713 rebounds. Smith ended with an 82.1 career free throw percentage (192-234), the highest in program history, just passing Roonie Scovel’s previous mark of 82.0 percent (82-100) set from 1980-83. She also played in the 125th game of her career, tied for the sixth most in program history.


During her collegiate career, Sorensen dropped in a total of 340 three-pointers, however, the first 179 of those don’t count toward her NCAA Division I total. In her two seasons suiting up for the Gator Orange & Blue, Sorensen totaled 161 three-pointers, a mark ranking as the fourth-best in program history. Sorensen canned 74 during her sophomore year at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, and drained a team-best 105 from beyond the arc her freshman season at Florida Gulf Coast University, which was competing in its final year on the NCAA Division II level. Sorensen started every game except one in her two-year career, earning 63 total starting assignments, all 63 in a row, the sixth-longest streak in program history!


Mossor totaled 555 points and 160 assists in her Gator career, as she contributed six points and a pair of assists against Miami. Yenser capped her career with 455 career points, with 142 of those coming during her two years at UF. Thompson tallied 465 points and 197 assists – seven coming on Sunday against the Hurricanes - in her three-year Gator career.


Florida ended the year hitting 220 three-pointers, one shy of tying last year’s record-setting campaign that compiled 221 in 32 games behind the arc.


A Miami three-point started the second half and the Hurricane’s lead swelled to 14 points, 35-21. The Gators, however, came right back with buckets from sophomore Jordan Jones (Swuanee, Ga.) and Stewart, and after a UM field goal, Steffi Sorensen nailed a three-pointer and brought Florida within nine points, 37-28.


Shenise Johnson halted Florida’s mini march with a three-point play and Diane Barnes followed with a bucket to drive the lead back to 14 points. Riquan Williams nailed a three-pointer immediately following a media timeout and capped an 8-0 run that gave UM a 17-point advantage.


Florida refused to fold, as Jennifer Mossor hit a three-pointer and Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) hit a 15-footer to spark a 12-4 run that cut the deficit to single digits, 49-40, with 12:40 to play.


The teams traded buckets, but Miami followed with consecutive makes and jumped back to a 14-point advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining.


Seniors Sharielle Smith and Steffi Sorensen came back with back-to-back treys and had the Gators within eight points, 56-48, with 8:47 to play. Miami called a timeout to halt UF’s momentum and it worked, as Williams canned a trey and the Canes again took a double-figure lead.


Neither team could score for nearly the next four minutes until UM converted a pair of free throws. Sorensen answered with a three-pointer from the top of the arc, but Williams hit a slashing layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Miami came up with the deadball rebound. The Canes couldn’t convert and Stewart put back an offensive rebound to keep the Gators within 10 points with 4:22 on the clock.


After one free throw from UM, Madu hit an eight-footer and cut the deficit to nine points, 64-55, with 3:49 remaining.


Two turnovers in the next minute helped Miami score the next five points and begin to pull away, holding a 69-55 lead with 2:38 left in the game.


Sorensen nailed her fourth three-pointer of the game and brought the Gators within 11, but UM scored the next four points, as UF missed its next two shots and would never recover despite scoring six points in the final 1:18, including Sorensen’s fifth three-pointer with 49 seconds remaining, as she closed her stellar two-year career with 161 treys that rank fourth in program history.


Shenise Johnson led four Hurricanes in double-figure scoring with 19 points, as well as 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Charmaine Clark tallied 16 points, Williams added 15 and Barnes tallied 13 points with eight rebounds.


The Hurricanes hit 45 percent overall from the floor, nailing 16-of-21 free throws, compared to UF’s 7-of-11 effort from the charity stripe.


The pace of the first four minutes of the game was fast and furious, as the teams seemingly matched each other’s offensive possession every time down the floor.


Miami jumped out with a three to start the game and hit four its first six shots to take an 11-9 lead at the 15:35 mark. The Gators sank 4-of-7, with Azania Stewart accounting for six points and Jordan Jones nailing a deep three-pointer with the shot clock running down.


Florida held a slight 7-5 lead during those opening minutes, but the Hurricanes used a trey, before Stewart hit an inside shot and swung the lead back in favor of the Gators.


That’s when Miami’s Diane Barnes converted a three-point play and sparked a 15-2 run and gave the Hurricanes a 23-11 lead, forcing Florida to call a timeout.


The Gators certainly had their chances during the spree, but missed 9-of-10 shots from the floor, with several short-range shots, while committing five turnovers during the seven-minute-plus run.


Sharielle Smith’s layup ended Miami’s spree, but the Hurricanes came right back with the next four points and their advantage swelled to 14 points, 27-13, with 7:36 remaining in the period.


The Gators still couldn’t get their shots to fall, but staged a 7-0 run thanks to a 5-of-6 free throw effort and an inside bucket from Stewart that cut the deficit to seven, 27-20, with just over four minutes left.


The Hurricanes then closed the half with a 5-1 run and took a 32-21 halftime lead.


Florida hit a mere 29.2 percent (7-24) from the floor, while Miami sank 40 percent (12-30) and held a slight 20-17 rebounding edge.



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