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Thursday March 21, 2013Moss Sets Another Career-High With 28 Points As Gators Move Past FIU, 75-68

Miami, Fla.

For the second-straight game, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) scored a career-high in points as she sank 28 to lead the University of Florida women’s basketball team to a 75-68 win over Florida International in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Thursday night in U.S. Century Bank Arena.

Moss didn’t really get her night going until late in the first half with the Gators down six with just under four minutes to play. Moss was able to use a steady diet of drives into the lane along with some pull-up jumpers to score 12 points at the break.

With the Gators trailing all night, Moss continued her tear into the second half and helped UF not only take the lead, but keep it for the remainder of the game. Each of the freshman’s shots that she took on Thursday were from inside the three-point line, many inside the paint. 16 of Moss’s 28 points were scored in the second period as the largest Florida lead was only seven points.

Along with Moss, junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored 19 points in the win, to go with five assists and some clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch that helped Florida keep the Panthers at bay.

“We had a few folks that definitely came to play tonight,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “With Sydney (Moss) having a career game tonight, we needed it. If we had time to go and correct some things, we would. But we don’t have that time. It’s survive and advance and move on to the next game. Give FIU a lot of credit. They fought hard. Jerica Coley is impressive. She was 18-of-18 from the free throw line and that’s impressive as well. They’re a really good team and really well coached. This was a good win for us in a tough environment. We just have to build on this. We’ve got to find the momentum in that and springboard into our next one.”

The Gators got off to a slow start as a few turnovers along with some hot shooting by FIU’s Finda Mansara allowed the Panthers to jump out to a 13-4 lead by the first media timeout with the only points coming from a Moss free throw and a January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) three-pointer with 15:54 to go in the half.

However, with some timely three-point shooting from freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) and junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.), UF used a 7-0 run to pull within one, 17-16, at the midway point of the first half.

Just when Florida thought they found their shooting rhythm, Florida International started sinking shots again as this time it was Jerica Coley, who found her mid-range game. After the 10 minute mark of the half, Coley made nine of the Panthers next 13 points to give FIU a 32-26 lead with 3:43 to play.

Then, Moss started to find her game in the low post. After the third media timeout, Moss made six straight points for the Gators, all on drives to the lane and helped Florida back to just a 34-32 deficit with 2:26 to go in the first half. Buckets were traded before the end of the half, but the Orange and Blue stayed within two to be down only 38-36 as both teams went into the locker rooms at the break.

Right out in the second half, the Gators were able to tie the game up right away after a Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) lay-up, but FIU’s Coley continued to get to the free-throw line where she hadn’t missed all night. Four straight free throws by Coley allowed the Panthers to rebuild their lead to 44-42 after just three minutes of play in the second half.

UF finally broke through to take their first lead of the game after getting a Moss jumper and a Bonds fast-break layup to lead 46-44 with 15:42 to play. The Florida defense stepped up multiple times after taking that lead to gain a six-point lead over just the next minute of play.

With the score 50-44 in favor of UF with 14 minutes to play, Florida International started to get to the free-throw line often. The Panthers were almost automatic from the charity stripe all night as they went 23-of-26 as a team on the freebies. With a couple of missed shots on the other end for the Gators, FIU cut the lead to one, 50-49, on the backs of four straight free throws.

The next six points in the game came off the hands of Moss as she matched her career-high on a pull-up jumper in the paint to single-handedly put Florida back in front by a comfortable margin, 56-49 with 12:20 to go in the game. Moss set her new career-high at the nine minute mark on a layup, which kept the Gators up seven.

FIU continued to keep it close as it pulled within two , 64-62, with 4:36 to play after a layup by Kamika Idom. Fortunately, Florida kept having to go to the line and continued to knock down the must-have free throws in the final stretches of the game.

Florida International was able to tie the game at 66-66 with 2:43 to play as Coley made two free throws, which was followed by a UF turnover and then a Coley layup on the fast-break. Once again, with the ball in Bonds’ hands, she drew the foul and knocked down two big free throws to move Florida ahead 68-66 with 2:21 to play.

“One of Jaterra’s nicknames is ‘JT Money,’ and that’s why,” Butler said. “There is no one on our team that our players want more on the line in that situation than Jaterra.”

The Gator defense stepped up big after those free throws as FIU had multiple good looks at the basket in the final minutes to try and bring the game even. Fortunately, for the Gators, none of the shots found the net as UF was able to leave Miami with the win.

Florida’s second round matchup of the WNIT will be against Winthrop, which won against Florida Gulf Coast earlier in the evening. The game will be played on the Winthrop campus and will take place on Monday starting at 7 p.m.

 

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