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Photo: Matt Pendleton

Tuesday March 20, 2012No. 1 Baylor Too Much as Gators' Season Comes to an End

Bowling Green, Ohio

Photo: Matt Pendleton

The ninth-seeded Florida women’s basketball team dropped a hard-fought decision to top-seeded Baylor, 76-57, in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Tuesday evening at the Stroh Center.

 

Baylor continues its quest to become the first-ever 40-win national championship team in NCAA Division I history when it plays Georgia Tech on Saturday in the Des Moines Region semifinal.

 

Senior center Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) led the way for Florida with 14 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Deana Allen (Houma, La.) added 13 points and five rebounds and senior Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) had 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

 

The Gators did something that only eight Baylor opponents had done previously: keep the Bears’ scoring margin at or under 20. Florida continued to push throughout the contest to keep Baylor as close as possible. Player of the Year candidate Brittany Griner scored a game-high 25 points and added nine rebounds with six blocks.

 

The second half started out big for Baylor, as Griner scored six quick points, including her first dunk in over a year and just the second-ever in an NCAA Tournament game, 41-28. Jordan Madden knocked down a three to put the Bears ahead, 45-30. The Gators continued to be patient, as Allen hit back-to-back jumpers to cut the lead to 47-34. Sophomore Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) hit a jumper of her own to make it 51-36 as the teams began to trade points.

 

After made free throws by Stewart and Bartley, the Gators hit a scoring drought of 2:36, but used staunch defense to allow only three Baylor points.

 

Bartley nailed back-to-back jumpers to put the score at 59-44 and the Gators continued to push, as Allen nailed one behind the arc, pulling the Gators closer at 63-47 as the teams reached the third media timeout.

 

Out of the timeout, Allen took advantage of the Gators’ speed, banking in a bucket to close the Baylor advantage, 63-49. A Stewart layup pulled Florida within 15, 66-51, before two made free throws by Griner pulled Baylor away, 69-51. Five straight points out of the final media timeout gave the Bears the momentum in the closing minutes.

 

Stewart and fellow senior Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) both scored in the paint to put the lead under 20, 74-55. Two made free throws by Bartley finished the scoring runs for both teams, as Baylor sealed its trip to the Sweet 16.

 

Florida shot 33 percent from the field while Baylor made 44 percent of its attempts. The Gators and the Bears were even on assists (14) and steals (nine), but staunch defense caused 32 turnovers between the two teams (UF: 17, BU: 15).

 

Bartley put the Gators on the board in the first half, making the first part of a 1-and-1. Stewart followed that up with a banked shot off the backboard to pull UF within one, 4-3. Two made free throws by Madden put Baylor back out in front, 6-3. Out of the media timeout, Destiny Williams was able to find the basket on a layup, but on a return trip down, teammate Terran Condrey had her shot swatted by George, setting up a fastbreak jumper by Deana Allen, 10-5.

 

Stewart scored on a fastbreak of her own, putting up a reverse layup to pull Florida within three, 10-7. Williams knocked down another jumper to put the Bears ahead, 12-7, heading into the second media timeout. An offensive board and layup by Allen pulled UF within seven of the Bears, 16-9.

 

Florida’s defense kept Griner quiet for most of the first half. She didn’t score her first points until a layup with 8:18 remaining in the first half. However, by that time Baylor had built a 21-11 cushion thanks to its versatile lineup.

 

Back-to-back treys by freshman Andrea Vilaró Aragonés (Barcelona, Spain) and a Bartley jumper put the score at 26-19, forcing a Baylor timeout. Bartley then notched a steal and made the front end of the ensuing free throws, closing the Bears’ advantage at 26-20 and continuing a 9-0 Gator run.

 

Baylor went on a mini run but Stewart nailed back-to-back buckets to close the gap and George hit a trey to shorten the Bears’ advantage, 35-26, heading into halftime.

 

Points in the paint were at a premium in the first half, as Baylor used its size and strength to outscore the Gators in that category, 18-10. Florida’s bench continued to contribute in a big way, outscoring Baylor’s bench in the opening stanza, 12-2.

 

 

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