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The Gators won their opening SEC Tournament game for the third straight year.

Thursday March 7, 2013Women's Hoops Defeats Arkansas in SEC Tournament Thriller, 64-59

Duluth, GA

The Gators won their opening SEC Tournament game for the third straight year.

Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and Florida rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit using a 10-2 run to end with a 64-59 win against Arkansas on the second day of play at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Gwinnett Center on Monday afternoon.


“I was really, really proud of our fight today,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “It was in question during some points in the ballgame, but ultimately, we really dug our heels in and made the plays when we had to. That last 12 to 14 minutes of the ballgame I thought showed a lot of toughness. There was a lot of leadership on the floor and just a tremendous amount of fight that is essential this time of year if you want to survive, especially in this league.”


Eighth-seeded Arkansas (18-12) ended the first half on a 13-2 run and took a 33-30 halftime lead and continued that momentum into the second half where the Razorbacks opened the frame scoring the first eight points and took a 41-30 lead.


Bonds scored two points from the free throw line to get the ninth-seeded Gators (18-13) on the board for the first time in the second half at the 16:54 mark, before the teams traded scores and Arkansas again held an 11-point cushion with 15:35 remaining.


Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) hit Florida’s first goal of the second half with 15:20 to play and Georgia-native Kayla Lewis put back an offensive rebound that trimmed the Gator deficit to seven points, 43-36.


Doninique Wilson, who was one of three Razorbacks to record a team-high 12 points, hit a layup inside and had Arkansas back up by nine, 45-36, with 13:01 to play.


That’s when Florida began to turn things around.


Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.), the Gator’s lone senior, scored her first points of the game on a tough inside bucket at the 12:42 mark and ignited a 16-4 run that gave Florida a 52-49 lead with 7:42 remaining.


Redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) sparked the Gators on defense as she came up with a steal after George’s basket and converted a layup. Needles came up with another steal on very next defensive possession and UF capitalized again as George found Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) alone under the net where she capped a run of six consecutive points.


The teams exchanged scores for the next two and a half minutes before Bonds nailed two free throws and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc that propelled an 8-0 run, with George scoring two points and Bonds six during the spurt that gave UF the 52-49 edge.


Arkansas regrouped by scoring the next six points and retook the lead, 55-52, with 4:30 on the clock.


Moss, who sank a career-best 7-of-8 from the three throw line during the win, stepped up and nailed two from the stripe that cut the deficit to one.


Keira Peak then hit a jumper and gave Arkansas they 57-54 advantage with 3:59 remaining.


Freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.), who was the star of the first half when scored 12 of her 14 points, converted a 12-foot jumper from straight away and Moss converted a spinning layup in the paint that gave Florida a 58-57 lead with 2:39 on the clock.


Peak answered with a driving layup that swung the lead back to the Razorbacks, but Bonds canned an athletic layup with 51 seconds remaining and then stepped to the line where she coolly sank both ends of the one-and-one free throws with 30.1 seconds left that gave the Gators a 62-59 lead.


Wilson’s jumper was off the mark and Moss corralled the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. The Gator rookie stepped up and drilled both to seal the victory.


“Arkansas has a great team,” Butler said. “I know they’re very disappointed but they have nothing to hang their heads about. Those kids played really hard and Tom (Collin) coached a great game. It’s a fantastic win for us.”


Moss finished with 13 points and her six rebounds tied for team-high rebound honors with George, while also dishing a team-best three assists in 34 minutes of action.


The first half was filled with runs by both teams, as Florida took an early 12-6 lead thanks to scoring eight straight points thanks to three-pointers from Carlie Needles and January Miller.


Arkansas stormed right back with a 12-1 march and held an 18-13 lead with 7:31 remaining in the first half.


Sydney Moss finally halted Florida’s nearly five-minute draught without a field goal with a floater in the paint before converting one free throw. Jaterra Bonds followed with a falling layup in the paint and tied the game at 18 with 6:27 on the clock.


After the Razorbacks netted another bucket, the Gators marched off another 8-0 run with treys from Needles and Miller sandwiched between two free throws from Bonds and Florida took a 26-20 advantage with 3:28 remaining in the period.


Quistelle Williams ended Florida’s run with a three-pointer and sparked a 13-2 run to end the half, as the Razorbacks enjoyed the 33-30 halftime lead after their flurry finish.


Miller scored 12 points to lead all scorers in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers, leading UF’s long-ranked attack that went 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Gators shot 34.6 percent overall from the floor, while Arkansas converted 46.4 percent (13-28), including a 4-of-7 three-point effort.


The Gators next play top-seeded and ninth-ranked Tennessee (23-6) on Friday at 12 Noon, ET. The game will be televised live on SportSouth, FS Southwest and Sun Sports (in Gainesville on Cox ch. 48).


Florida lost to Tennessee, 78-75 in overtime during the January 13 regular-season meeting in Gainesville. The Gators are 3-45 all-time against the Lady Vols, including an 0-8 record in SEC Tournament games.




Postgame Press Conference (via FastScripts by ASAP Sports)

Florida Coach Amanda Butler

Opening Remarks

Just really, really proud of our fight today. It was in question at some points in the ballgame, but ultimately we really dug our heels in and made the plays that we had to. That last 12, 14 minutes of the ballgame I thought showed a lot of toughness. There was a lot of leadership out there on the floor. Just a tremendous amount of fight that is essential this time of year if you want to survive, especially in this league. Arkansas is a great team. I know they're very disappointed, but they have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. Those kids played hard. Tom coached a great game. It's a fantastic win for us.


Florida freshman JANUARY MILLER:

Like coach said, I'm proud how we all played together, got this win. Arkansas was a tough team. It was good to get that win and go on to the next run.


Florida junior JATERRA BONDS:

 I'm happy to be here, another chance to play them again. They put up a great fight. During this time, it comes down to who want it more. That's who going to win these games in this tournament.



How difficult is it, if any, to come back and play in back-to-back games or do you think it's an advantage to you?

JATERRA BONDS: I don't really see it as an advantage or disadvantage. Like I said, whoever wants to win more is going to win the game. Last year we had to play back-to-back games, Arkansas or Auburn, then play Kentucky, who presses the whole game. You can't let fatigue be a factor. You have to trust the training you did all summer and prior to getting here to take over and give you confidence.


JANUARY MILLER: Like Jaterra said, playing them back-to-back, they know what we're going to do, we know what they're going to do. It's up to who hustles more and who wants to go to the next round. You just have to play your all.


Do you as a coach like having a game under your belt like this or are you concerned more about the fatigue factor playing the next day?

COACH BUTLER: I think we've prepared for this all year. We put our schedule together, we went out and played at Thanksgiving in a tournament where we played three nights in a row, for this very reason, so it wouldn't be a factor for us, especially mentally. I agree where Jaterra. At this point in the year, fatigue can't be in the mix. Your mental preparation is probably the toughest thing when you have to turn it around this quickly. We've already experienced that and handled it quite well for a young team. I know we'll be up for the challenge and we're excited. We got a little momentum on how we're feeling about ourselves, how we rebounded the basketball tonight. I don't think it sways things one way or the other unless we think it does, and clearly we don't.


Could you talk about the first game with Tennessee, an overtime game, could have gone either way. What kind of bearing might that have in terms of how your kids feel in a rematch?

COACH BUTLER: I think we take great confidence from that game. Like you said, it could have gone either way. I think we have great explanations at this point in our season for why it didn't go our way. We learned some tough lessons on that matchup. There was a lot of things we learned and drew confidence from. We had to play over half of the ballgame without Jennifer being an option on the floor. Jaterra's leadership was fantastic. It gives us some familiarity that everybody has with one another at this point. But I'm going to just tail off of what Jaterra said. I think what happened before really doesn't have as much of a factor, as much of an impact. Tomorrow will be about who is more ready, who has an expectation of winning, and who puts up the greatest fight.



Official SEC Tournament Website



#9 Seed Florida (18-13, 6-10 SEC) vs. #1 Seed Tennessee (23-6, 14-2 SEC)

Fri., March 7, 2013 * 12 Noon, ET

2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament - Quarterfinals

The Arena at Gwinnett Center (10,309) * Duluth, Ga.


Game Coverage & More!

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Television: LIVE on SportSouth, FS Southwest, SunSports (Cox Ch. 48 in Gainesville) with Dave Neal and Nell Fortner 



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