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Jennifer George posted her eighth consecutive double-double.

Sunday January 8, 2012WBB's Late Rally Falls Short Against South Carolina, 49-44

Gainesville, Fla.

Jennifer George posted her eighth consecutive double-double.

Florida nearly overcame a woeful first half and a 17-point deficit, but missed a couple crucial defensive rebounds in the final minutes in a 49-44 loss to South Carolina Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

 

The loss overshadowed another stellar individual effort by junior forward Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.), who posted 16 points and 11 rebounds along with a season-high six blocks for her eighth consecutive double-double, a run tied for the fourth longest in UF history and the longest of its kind since Murriel Page’s record-setting 13-game streak during the 1997-98 season.

 

After George hit a layup and brought Florida within one point, 13-12, with 9:18 remaining in the first half, South Carolina mounted a 18-2 run over the next 8:38 and took a 31-14 lead, handing the Gator’s a 17-point deficit, their largest of the season, surpassing the 15-point hole UF found itself midway through the second half of a 14-point loss to Rutgers on Dec. 2.

 

Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) hit one free throw with 38 seconds remaining to end 11 straight points by the Gamecocks, as Florida was held without a field goal for the final 9:18 of the half and entered the halftime locker room trailing, 31-15.

 

The 15 points were the third fewest UF has scored in the first half of an SEC regular-season game, as South Carolina managed to convert 14 Gator turnovers into 13 points. The Gators hit only 30.4 percent (7-23) from the floor during the opening half, while turning the ball over 14 points.

 

"You have to give South Carolina a lot of credit with the way that first half went,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “That wasn't the story of the game, but it definitely set the tone and I give credit to them because we didn't come out ready to take care of our home floor and in this league it doesn't make any difference who you're playing, you're going to get punched in the mouth if you are not ready to go from the first whistle.”

It was a fortunate series of events that put Florida (11-5, 1-2 SEC) in a situation to win a game that seemed far out of its reach heading into halftime. Despite the tumultuous start, the Gator defense limited the Gamecocks to seven points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half to keep the game within their reach.

 

George halted the Gamecock run in UF’s first possession of the second half, dropping in a bucket down low 10 seconds into the frame, as the Gators ripped out of the halftime locker room scoring the first nine points, with six from George and a three-point play from Deana Allen (Houma, La.), who finished the game with nine points and a season-high 10 rebounds. That surge cut UF’s deficit to eight points, 31-24, with 17:36 remaining, as South Carolina called a timeout to defuse the Gator’s momentum.

 

Markeshia Grant ended UF’s run out of the timeout with a six-foot jumper in the paint, but George came right back with a fastbreak layup thanks to an assist from Jones and the Gators were back within seven points, 33-26, with 14:59 remaining.

 

La’Keisha Sutton then scored the next three points of the game and USC’s lead returned to double-figures, 35-26. Aleighsa Welch tacked on two more points, as Florida went cold from the floor, missing four layups and a pair of three-point attempts while turning the ball over once, as the Gamecocks held a 38-27 lead with 9:26 remaining.

 

Jones hit two free throws during the stretch, but the second was waved off due to a lane violation, preventing the Gators from cutting the deficit to 10.

 

Grant scored another layup inside, before Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) drove hard and converted one for Florida.

 

Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) connected on a 16-footer from straight away and Allen followed with a slashing layup and had Florida within eight points, 41-33, with 7:22 remaining.

 

Welch then converted a second-chance point for South Carolina, before Jones dropped in a floater and the Gators were again within eight with 6:23 on the clock.

 

George scored again at the 5:41 mark and Florida was within 43-37, before Ebony Wilson answered for USC.

 

Svete then nailed a three-pointer from the left corner in front of the Gator bench and had Florida within five points, 45-40, with 4:55 to go.

 

Allen collected a defensive rebound on the ensuing Gamecock possession and Florida called a timeout to set up an important try on its end of the floor.

 

Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) was fouled, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. South Carolina, however, was whistled for traveling immediately after inbounding the ball and the Gators had another opportunity to get even closer.

 

Florida gave the ball right back to South Carolina, committing its 18th of 20 turnovers in the game.

 

The Gator defense held strong and forced a shot-clock violation, but missed its shot on the offensive end and SC corralled the loose ball.

 

The teams again traded turnovers without attempting a shot and USC took possession with 2:19 remaining.

 

Florida again forced a shot-clock violation and the nation’s second-ranked defense set up a full-court press. The Gators didn’t have any problems bringing the ball down the court, but couldn’t connect on its shot, as the Gamecocks secured the miss with 1:30 on the clock.

 

Florida set up a play with 47.8 seconds remaining, but missed two shots was forced to foul with 33 ticks, sending Grant to the free throw line, where she missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

 

George collected her 10th rebound of the game off the miss and then snared an offensive board at the other end of the floor, putting it back in and had Florida within three points, 45-42, with 21.8 seconds remaining.

 

UF called its final timeout and immediately fouled Welch, who missed the attempt, but Ieasia Sutton grabbed the offensive rebound and Florida was forced to foul again, this time Grant, who also missed the front end, but Charenee Stephens was there to put back the miss and gave SC a 45-42 lead.

 

Bonds quickly dropped in a layup and UF fouled Sutton, who calmly sank two free throws with 5.5 seconds and gave USC a 49-44 lead to end the game’s scoring as the Gamecocks (14-2, 3-0 SEC) held on for their eighth consecutive win.

 

“I’m proud of our fight in the second half and the position we put ourselves in, but we just didn't do what we needed to do to finish out the game and it is very disappointing,” Butler said.

 

Grant and Sutton each scored 11 for USC, while Welch finished with 10 points for the Gamecocks, who won the rebounding battle 39-37, which included 16 on the offensive end to help offset a 5-of-13 performance at the free throw line.

 

Despite the lows, there were some individual highs for the Gators. George had her eighth consecutive double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The output pushes her up in the record book, as the run is now tied for fourth in school history with Quientella Bonner (1976-77) and Murriel Page (1997-98) with consecutive double-double performances.

 

Stewart also imprinted her name in the Florida record book when she blocked the 172nd shot of her career, swatting South Carolina’s La’Keisha Sutton layup attempt at the 15:59 mark of the first half, as she is now tied for third alongside DeLisha Milton (172) for career blocked shots.

 

Both defenses put together strong performances, as both the Gators and Gamecocks were limited to season-low outputs of 44 and 49 points, respectively. The Gamecocks were previously limited to 50 points when they faced the Nittany Lions on Nov. 20, 2011.

 

"I thought they did a really good job pressuring the ball and that was certainly what we expected to happen, but we just couldn't handle it with composure and just knowing that would be the challenge and that was what we needed to be ready for,” explained Butler

 

As a team, Florida bested South Carolina 10-2 in fast break points, and with a 32-30 production in the paint.

 

Throughout the 40 minutes of playing time, one thing is for certain - it was a back-and-forth production at the O’Connell Center as the Gators committed miscues four times in just five minutes to start the game.

 

Despite the lack of offensive push down the court, the Gators maintained a 6-4 lead heading into the first media timeout, catapulted by Allen, who simultaneously earned her first start of the season, and put Florida on the boards first with a clean layup down the lane.

 

For over two minutes, the game remained without another scorer until South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch made a layup to tie up the game 6-6 and kick-off a both breakaway lead and catapult a 25-8 run for the Gamecocks and Florida failed to recover in the first half.

 

A fast break by Bonds seemed promising as she found her way down the court, but proved unproductive as she missed the shot that could have cut the Gators deficit by one point at a possible 15-14, but instead kept the score at 15-12. The Gamecocks took advantage of the failed attempt and strengthened their lead with a three from Markeshia Grant to put them up 18-12. 

 

Florida remained scoreless for the final six minutes of action in the first half until Jones’ free throw made its way clearly through the net with 30 seconds remaining on the clock and set the score at 31-15.

 

The Gators return to action on Thursday, January 12 when they travel to Athens, Ga., to face the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (12-3, 1-1 SEC) at Stegemen Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5 “The Star” and via the internet at www.GatorZone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators.

 

The Lady Bulldogs defeated Auburn, 70-45, on Sunday afternoon in Auburn, Ala.

 

Game Notes

Ÿ  Florida’s defense limited South Carolina to their lowest output of the season with 49 points. They were previously limited to 50 by Penn State on November 20, 2011.

Ÿ  UF’s 15 points were its third-fewest ever in the first half of an SEC regular-season game

Ÿ  Florida used the starting lineup of Stewart, George, Bonds, Allen and Jones for the first time this season; UF had used the same lineup for the previous 13 games that included Bartley for Allen

Ÿ  Jennifer George had her eighth consecutive double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. She is now tied for fourth in school history with Quientella Bonner (1976-77) and Murriel Page (1997-98) with consecutive double-double performances.

Ÿ  Deana Allen had a season-high, 10 rebounds with five offensive and five defensive catches off the board.

Ÿ  Azania Stewart blocked the 172nd shot of her career and is now tied for third alongside DeLisha Milton (172) for career-blocked shots.

Ÿ  It was the first time in 11 games that Jordan Jones failed to hit a three. Her 11-game streak is tied for 12th in school history alongside Sha Brooks (2006) and Talatha Bingham (1998); the streak was the third longest of her UF career

Ÿ  After winning eight consecutive home games, Florida has lost its last two in the O’Connell Center

 

 

Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler
Opening Statement
"You have to give South Carolina a lot of credit with the way that first half went. That wasn't the story of the game, but it definitely set the tone and I give credit to them because we didn't come out ready to take care of our home floor and in this league it doesn't make any difference who you're playing, you're going to get punched in the mouth if you are not ready to go from the first whistle.”

 

“I’m proud of our fight in the second half and the position we put ourselves in, but we just didn't do what we needed to do to finish out the game and it is very disappointing."

On what caused a change in the offensive plan of going inside to Jennifer George…
"I thought they did a really good job pressuring the ball and that was certainly what we expected to happen, but we just couldn't handle it with composure and just knowing that would be the challenge and that was what we needed to be ready for. We felt like we had an advantage on the low block and that was what the game plan was and you have to credit their defense for taking some of those looks away."

On other places to get offensive production other than Jennifer George…
"I think her post partners need to help her out, in particular we need Azania Stewart to help her out and we need her to step up and make some plays on the offensive end. I think she knows she has got more to give on the offensive end and I think it is distributed throughout the team and we have got to give ourselves second chances on offense and more perimeter rebounding. On top of what (Jennifer) George said, we have got to finish shots and we had some good looks, but we have to knock them down and we can do that better."

Junior Forward Jennifer George
On what the team can improve on…
"I think finishing consistently with contact and even though they aren't calling the fouls we still have to be able to finish."

 

 

South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley

On the style of play that led to their run late in the first half…

“We come into the basketball game trying to disrupt the flow of the offense. It was just a matter of time before we were able to disrupt them and we were able to do that at the end of the first half. We made a couple of substitutions and our defense picked up and it led to some easy baskets. It wasn’t anything pretty but certainly we will take the win.”

 

On their style of play…

“That’s something that we’ve been doing for the last 15 games. We try to disrupt to the point where, even though people may shoot a high percentage on us, we don’t allow you to take as many shots as you want to take. For us, we like the scores low so the only thing that we can bank on is how good we play defense.”   

 

On if she sees her team being ranked in the polls after this win…

“Probably. I think that the people who are poll watchers would have us in, but at this time it’s really early in the season. From our end, if we do get ranked, it’s a great tribute to our program, a great tribute to former players who helped us get to this point because we’ve been on the other side of this for quite some time now. I’d welcome it, but it really won’t define us because we have a lot more left in the season.”  

 

Scores of Other SEC Games on Sunday:

Georgia d. AUBURN, 70-45

VANDERBILT d. Ole Miss, 68-52

LSU d. Alabama, 84-40

Tennessee d. ARKANSAS, 69-38

KENTUCKY d. Miss. State, 88-40

 

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