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Jordan Jones knocked down a 3-pointer for the 13th straight game. (Matt Pendleton)

Thursday March 1, 2012Women's Basketball Defeats Auburn in SEC Tournament First Round, 70-60

Nashville, TN

Jordan Jones knocked down a 3-pointer for the 13th straight game. (Matt Pendleton)

Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) scored 17 points, Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) posted her 15th double-double of the season and the University of Florida earned a 70-60 victory against Auburn in the first round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

 

The eighth-seeded Gators (19-11) advance to play top-seeded and No. 10/9-ranked Kentucky (24-5) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT. The game will be televised by FSN and will air on FS Florida throughout the state of Florida. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5 “The Star,” with live streaming audio available through www.GatorZone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators. Live streaming video of the game will be provided on www.ESPN3.com, but is subject to blackout in states with an SEC school.

 

 

FROM GATORVISION ONLINE:

 

·         WATCH highlights from the game

 

·         WATCH additional postgame interviews – with Azania Stewart and Lanita Bartley

 

·         WATCH the Preview of Friday’s SEC Tournament Quarterfinal match up against Kentucky

 

 

 

On Thursday, George scored the first points of the entire four-day event with a short jumper inside en route to a 12-point, 14-rebound effort to extend her SEC-leading double-double total. George was one rebound shy of her career high on the boards, as Florida outrebounded Auburn, 48-41, during the game, with 24 rebounds coming on the offensive end. Senior point guard Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) pulled down eight boards to go along with 13 points, while Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots that included the 300th block of her career. Stewart became just the third Gator to block as many, joining Vanessa Hayden (357 blocks, 2000-04) and Quientella Bonner (230 blocks, 1976-81).

 

Florida used a 10-0 run midway through the first half that provided some breathing room after the first seven and half minutes of the game were fairly even, although the Gators never relinquished their lead at any point during the contest. Jones scored five points during the run that included her converting a three-pointer in her 13th consecutive game, the ninth-longest streak in program history. Madu started the run with a pair of free throws, while Stewart hit an inside jumper and George followed with one free throw that resulted in a 25-13 Gator lead with 4:03 remaining in the first half.

 

Florida’s lead dipped to nine points after Tyrese Tanner, who finished with 10 points, nailed a three-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded and the Gators took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. George had already compiled 10 points and nine rebounds for Florida, which shot 34.2 percent (13-38) in the first half and 35.4 percent for the game.

 

Auburn’s Blanche Alverson scored 12 of the Tiger’s 25 first half points, finishing with 16 in the game along with a team-best seven rebounds. Freshman Hasina Muhammad scored a career and game-high 20 points, all of which came in the second half.

 

The teams traded scores to start the second half before Florida, which held a nine-point lead, used a 10-1 run that included three-pointers from Jones and Bartley and helped the Gators assume a 46-28 advantage with 14:47 remaining.

 

Both teams answered each other’s scores and mini-runs again, but Auburn kept chipping away and cut Florida’s lead to 11 points, 57-46, with 6:59 remaining. Florida responded with two free throws from Deana Allen (Houma, La.), but the Tigers were playing hard for coach Nell Fortner, who announced she would retire at the end of the season, and continued to battle, eventually clawing to within eight points a few times, the last coming with 1:33 remaining.

 

The Gators stepped up down the stretch from the free throw line, where in several games throughout the year they had struggled, and converted 9-of-11 in the final 1:44 to seal the victory.

 

“I was proud of the way we played collectively because it’s hard to keep playing hard when you’re not playing as perfect as you want to,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining our composure, the push at the end, stepping up to the free throw line and having a lot of poise and knocking down those ones that really kept them from really getting in striking distance.”

 

Florida next faces a Kentucky team that won both regular season meetings against the Gators by a combined eight points, earning the 59-56 decision in Gainesville on January 1 and the 57-52 outcome in Lexington on January 22. The Wildcats, who captured their first SEC title in 30 years, have won four straight against the Gators, with each of the last three decided by five points or less. UK has won five of the last six decisions, as well as seven of the last nine against UF.

 

“They were close,” Butler said of the two regular season games against Kentucky. “A couple possessions here and there. We know we’re going to have to handle their pressure, be ready not to back down. I’m sure we’re going to watch a lot of film tonight, so it will be an exciting game tomorrow.”

 

This will be the third-ever meeting between Florida and Kentucky at the SEC Tournament, with the Gators winning in the first round of the 1987 event and the Wildcats taking the quarterfinal battle in 2006.

 

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