Sunday January 13, 2013Gators Just Miss Upset of No. 9 Tennessee, 78-75 in Overtime
Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored 18 points and Florida nearly overcame the absence of senior All-American Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.), who missed the final 29 minutes, but ninth-ranked Tennessee converted 4-of-6 free throws in overtime to escape the O’Connell Center with a 78-75 victory over the Gators.
The game remained close throughout, with the largest lead being nine points by Tennessee early in the second half. The score was tied six times – twice during overtime - and there were seven lead changes, including three in the overtime frame.
UT struck first in the extra period, as Isabelle Harrison converted an inside layup 11 seconds into overtime. Redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.), who finished with 11 rebounds and five points, connected on one free throw before freshman Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) hit jumper in the paint and gave Florida a 73-72 lead with 2:24 remaining.
The Vols then connected on one from the charity stripe and evened the game, but Bonds came right back with a layup and the Gators held a 75-73 lead with 1:23 to go.
Meighan Simmons, who finished with a game-high 27 points, answered with a jumper 11 seconds later. Florida had two shots at the basket during its next offensive possession, but neither would fall and UT went back to the line where Kamiko Williams connected on one more that gave the Vols the 76-75 lead with 27 seconds remaining.
Florida called a timeout with 16.9 left in the overtime period and after the inbounds, Mercer was fouled on her shot and went to the line to shoot two. She missed both and a foul on the rebound sent Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves to the line where connected on both and gave the visitors the three-point advantage.
The Gators had one final chance to tie the game, but Lewis’ three-point attempt bounced off the side of the rim and Florida had its 15-game home winning streak come to an end.
“I’ve got to give Tennessee a lot of credit for a hard fought and well-played game,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “They did a great job and in certain points of finding weaknesses and attacking them. I love our fight. I love this team. I told our team that we’re on a little journey right now. We’ve got a growth process going on and part of that growth process is sometimes coming up a little bit short. That fuels your fire even more. I think that’s where we’re at. We had opportunities and we’re going to kick ourselves when we go back and look at the game in its entirety, not just the last couple plays which are the ones that seem to stick with people. This was our game. We’re going to take confidence from that. We have a bye week and it’s a great opportunity for us to be really mad, really inspired, really determined, and work really hard. That’s what’s important right now.”
With Tennessee holding a 53-44 lead with 16:02 remaining in regulation, Bonds drilled a jumper and ignited a 13-5 run over the next 6:39 and Florida was within one point, 58-57, with 9:23 remaining.
Four different Gators (13-5, 2-2 SEC) scored during the run, with Bonds accounting for four points, Mercer for three, Lewis with two and freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.), who finished with 11 points, contributed a gutsy jumper for two.
Tennessee scored the next four points and held a five-point lead with 7:45 on the clock and teams traded scored for the next 36 seconds before Florida staged a 7-0 run, as Bonds canned a three-pointer, junior Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.) connected on a shot from the paint and Bonds capped the spree with another jumper at 4:27 that gave Florida a 66-64 lead, its first since the 14:09 mark of the first half.
The Vols (13-3, 4-0 SEC) came back with three free throws and a bucket from Simmons and regained a three-point edge.
Freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.), who finished with seven points and nine rebounds, hit a tough jumper and then found Miller with nailed a bucket with 29 seconds remaining that gave Florida a 70-69 lead.
Graves hit one free throw for UT and evened the score with 13 seconds left in regulation. Florida had one last chance to win the game before overtime, but Bonds wasn’t able to get off a clean shot and the game entered an extra period.
“Our team is not satisfied by losing by three, to Tennessee, in overtime,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “We are not ever going to be a team that is satisfied by a loss of any margin to any team any where because I think we’re one of the best teams in the country. We’re a young team that is growing. We’re on a journey and it’s a process and this is a step in it. It’s a painful step in our process, but a great showing wasn’t what we wanted. The young ladies on our team are warriors and have a lot of confidence in each other.”
Also scoring in double-figures for the Gators was redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.), who added 11 points, connecting on 3-of-8 from the three-point arc while playing a career-long 39 minutes for the Gators, who outrebound Tennessee 48-41 and shot 43.2 percent (32-74) from the field, but connected on just 6-of-13 free throws.
Graves had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Tennessee, while Ariel Massendgale added 12 and Isabelle Harrison chipped in 10 points with nine rebounds for the Vols, who hit 39.4 percent from the field and 16-of-22 (72.7%) from the charity stripe.
Florida’s bench proved to be huge in the game with George going down with 3:56 remaining in the first half after reinjuring her shoulder. It scored 33 points, outscoring the Volunteers’ bench that tallied three points.
The Gators came out strong to start the game. Needles drew a charge from Tennessee’s Harrison 11 seconds into the game and caused the first of 14 Vols turnovers. Needles then hit a three-pointer for the first points of the game.
At 15:49 the Gators were up 12-8 and forced the Volunteers to call a timeout. Moss kissed it off the glass to keep the lead at four, but Tennessee answered with a three point shot to pull within one.
A turnover gave Tennessee its first lead of the game. Florida answered with a three pointer by Miller to tie the game at 19. Both teams went on a shooting drought as they were scoreless for nearly three minutes. McIntyre broke the Gators out of their dry spell, hitting a long jumper to bring the score to 23-24 at 7:44.
Moss found Mercer in the paint to bring the Gators within two with one minute remaining in the first and brought Florida within two, 35-33. Moss was fouled with 6.6 seconds remaining in the first. She missed the first free throw but made the second and Florida trailed 37-34 at halftime.
Today’s game was designated as the ‘We Back Pat’ game to raise awareness for the Pat Summit Foundation Fund.
The Gators have a midweek bye and will return to the court next Sunday, January 20 when they play host to No. 18/16 South Carolina in the O’Connell Center beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler
“I’ve got to give Tennessee a lot of credit for a hard fought and well-played game. They did a great job and in certain points of finding weaknesses and attacking them. I love our fight. I love this team, and I told our team that we’re on a little journey right now. We’ve got a growth process going on and part of that growth process is sometimes coming up a little bit short. That fuels your fire even more. I think that’s where we’re at. We had opportunities and we’re going to kick ourselves when we go back and look at the game in its entirety, not just the last couple plays which are the ones that seem to stick with people. This was our game. We’re going to take confidence from that. We have a bye week and it’s a great opportunity for us to be really mad, really inspired, really determined, and work really hard. That’s what’s important right now.”
On fouling with 16 second left in overtime
“It was kind of one of those calculated risks. It was a bad decision, even though she only hit one. It was still a bad decision. I make a lot of bad decisions. Sometimes I make good decisions. She was one of their weaker free throw shooters, and sometimes you just have a feeling. It was tough to stop them one-on-one so sometimes you try to be creative. If I got to do it over again, I’d trust our defense.”
On Jennifer George and the resiliency of the team
“That’s something that has to give the team great confidence. We’re not a one-woman team. Although I think Jennifer is one of the best players in this league, our balance is legit. Pick one. Christin Mercer played a fantastic ball game, was demanding the ball from her teammates in huddles and was saying “Give it to me, I’ll score.” I thought we saw big-time play out of everyone. Obviously it’s a medical decision for her to not go back in the ball game. We need to use this week to get her back up and running.”
On not seeing Pat Summit on the sideline
“I didn’t really think about it at all during the game, and that’s a credit to Holly [Warlick]. I think Holly is an amazing coach. I think she’s a really strong person. I think everything that she’s done in that program is now coming to the surface and now coming to light. Everyone kept asking me how Tennessee is different without Pat, and they’re not different at all because Holly has been one of those behind the scenes people for as long as I can remember, teaching Tennessee defense and Tennessee pride and wearing the jersey herself. I miss Pat, there’s no question. She represents excellence and greatness to a little Tennessee girl. But I have tremendous respect for Holly. At no point during the game did I think we had a better chance because Holly was standing up there instead of Pat.
Redshirt Sophomore Guard Kayla Lewis
On being in foul trouble
“It was frustrating at the time, and I know it was harmful to the team especially with Jennifer going out in the beginning. Thinking back now, it’s give or take sometimes with being aggressive. Sometimes the refs will call those fouls and sometimes they won’t. Like coach said, we go back and review film. There will definitely be some things that I know I could have done better to put myself in better defensive position and put our team in a better position so we don’t have to play people in the four that don’t normally play it.”
Redshirt Freshman Carlie Needles
On the atmosphere
“We knew today it would be a big game with a lot of people there and some people there that weren’t going to be Gator fans, but we live for this kind of thing. We wanted to make their crowd quiet and get ours loud, and that’s what we did for most of the game. It was a really fun atmosphere out there and we just wish we had a different outcome for them.”
On the takeaway from today’s game
“Like coach said, we’re not satisfied at all, and were not by any means done with our journey. This is a learning experience for me as well as the other freshman, but this is just adding fuel to our fire. We’ve come up short twice with teams that we should have had a different outcome. This is really just extra motivation for us. Like we said at the beginning of the year, we’re not making any excuses for ourselves for being young and inexperienced. We won’t come up short next year.”
Junior Guard Jaterra Bonds
On the final play at the end of regulation
“With seven or eight seconds left, we were just trying to get a quick screen or I was just trying to get the ball to someone to score quick. It ended up that she stopped me. I was going to step back for the three, but I felt off-balance and Kayla was open. I had confidence that she would make the shot. You don’t always have to make the game-winning shot. Sometimes it’s a pass, and I had confidence that Kayla was going to knock it down and she was open. Unfortunately she didn’t. We’re sitting here with the long faces now, but she’s going to make it next time. Whoever I pass it to will make it next time. You just have to have confidence in yourself and in your team that you’re going to make the right play.”
Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick
“Obviously, excited that out group finished it but I thought it was a hard-fought game between the two teams. Amanda (Butler) has done a great job with her group and hats off to her. We had to battle and she had to battle and I guess if you were spectators it was an exciting game, but for us coaches it was little gut wrenching. But we hit big free throws; we had two big stops at the end and just proud of our kids for finishing the game.”
On Bashaara being key throughout game
“She was huge; I keep saying she’s our workhorse. She hit big, tough free throws at the end and she’s a competitor. I know she hit her neck a little bit but she came out and just kept coming. She’s being solid and consistent and for a freshman to do that is huge. I’m very proud of her and how she’s playing and how she carried herself.”
Impact for Florida with George leaving early
“Yes, I thought that was huge. She’s physical, she’s strong; to lose her is huge. And my credit to them, it didn’t seem to me that they let up. So yeah I think it would have been a great help to them if she had been in the game.”
On Florida winning rebounding battle
“We hadn’t been outrebounded in a long time. At the end we had a stop and they had a huge offensive rebound. Tonight I thought Florida did an awesome job on the offensive boards and gave them another position. So that’s just something that as a young team we continue to stress and continue to go back and work on. I guess that’s why we have jobs. We have yet to play a 40-minute game.”
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