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The Gators have advanced to the national semifinals of a postseason tournament for the third time.

Saturday March 30, 2013Florida Continues Thrilling run in WNIT Quarterfinal with win at James Madison, 85-80

Harrisonburg, VA

The Gators have advanced to the national semifinals of a postseason tournament for the third time.

Freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) scored a game-high 27 points, junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) added 20 including the last four points from the free throw line with 23.4 seconds remaining and Florida marched into the semifinals of the WNIT after its 85-80 win at James Madison in front of a raucous 2,182 fans at the JMU Convocation Center on Saturday evening.



VIDEO – 2Ways2Watch – Gator highlights and interviews from the win!

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The Gators held a 79-77 lead with 1:29 remaining before Tarik Hislop drilled her third three-pointer of the game for her 26th and final point and gave the Dukes the lead with 65 seconds left.


Freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) then drove hard into the paint, put up a tough shot that dropped in and was fouled. She missed the charity toss, but the Gators held the 81-80 lead with 52.7 seconds remaining.


The Dukes (25-11) collected the rebound and Jazmon Gwathmey collected an offensive rebound off of Hislop’s miss at the other end and was fouled putting up a shot with 27.3 seconds left. Fortunately for the Gators, she missed both and Moss corralled the second miss and passed the ball to Bonds, who was fouled with 23.4 seconds left.


Bonds, who on her previous trip to the free throw line set a new Gator season record with 136 makes, calmly converted both ends of the one-and-one and gave Florida an 83-80 lead.


As expected, JMU put the ball in Hislop’s hands, but her long-range shot was off the mark and the ball went out of bounds with the possession to Florida.


Bonds was fouled immediately after catching the in-bound pass and stepped to the line where she clinched the victory after making both attempts with 4.1 seconds remaining.


In a game that featured 16 lead changes and 10 tied scores, the Gators (22-14) overcame their lone senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) fouling out with 8:25 remaining and sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) leaving the game with an injury with 15:59 to play and had just six players to finish the contest.


“Our team is playing with a tremendous amount of determination and heart,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I’m just so proud of their toughness because with Kayla sitting on the bench with her ankle swelling up and Jennifer having to play with four fouls before fouling out with eight minutes left and us just having six players and trying to figure out who to play where. I just think it was a tremendous display of toughness and will and I couldn’t be prouder.”


Moss, who scored in double-figures in her seventh consecutive game, finished one-point shy of her career-best scoring effort that she set at FIU in the WNIT first round. The Gator rookie also collected a team-high nine rebounds, as Florida held the 43-40 rebounding edge.


Bonds dished a team-best five assists, while sinking 8-of-9 free throws, all in the second half.


Freshman Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) scored 11 points with six rebounds and two steals, while Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) added eight points, including a three-pointer with 2:32 remaining that gave Florida a 76-75 lead.


All eight Gators who suited up for the game scored, the 15th time this season that has occurred and the third time during the team’s four-game WNIT run.


“It’s a very typical team win for us, points and minutes distributed,” Butler said. “January gets the foul driving to the rim and that was huge. We had some really, really big defensive stops with some huge rebounds and exhausted kids on the floor down the stretch.”


Florida next meets the winner of the game between Auburn (19-14) and Drexel (25-10) in the national semifinals on either April 3 or 4 on a campus site to be determined. Auburn hosts the Dragons on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.


This is the second time in program history the Gators have reached the semifinals of a national postseason tournament, not including the 1985 team’s run to the final of the NWIT that was a 16-team event.  Florida reached the Elite 8 of the 1997 NCAA Tournament where the Gators lost to Old Dominion, 53-51, and won four games to advance to the 2000 WNIT championship game and lost to host Wisconsin, 75-74.


“All of our players chose to come to Florida for a reason and they want to make history,” Butler shared.


Florida scored the first two points of the second half from two different trips to the free throw line, before JMU scored the next six points and took the 44-43 lead.


The Gators answered with the next seven points, two from Moss and five from Bonds, as the lead swung back in Florida’s favor.


JMU was able to trim UF’s lead to one point during when George picked up her fourth foul with 14:06 remaining in the second half and left the game with the Gators holding a 50-47 lead. She returned the game at the 12:58 mark.


After the Dukes run, Mercer took a feed from Bonds and finished the bucket to spark a 8-2 run and the Gators held a 60-53 lead with 11:07 to play.


The Dukes refused to fold and ripped off a 6-0 spurt, before the Gators answered with four point from Moss and two from Bonds, as the Gators led 66-59 with 9:27 remaining.


With Florida already having collected seven fouls, Precious Hall went to the line and converted both ends of a one-and-one and ignited a 8-0 run that had the crowd in a frenzy, as the home team took the 67-66 lead with 7:26 remaining, during which George was whistled for her fifth personal and watched the final 8:25 of the game from the bench.


Moss stopped the run with a tough bucket, but Hislop answered the lead swung back and fourth.


Bonds went to the free throw line with 6:33 remaining, where she made one and converted her 136th free throw of the year, passing the Gator’s season record held by Sha Brooks during the 2008-09 season.


Moss again followed with a bucket and gave Florida a 71-60 lead with 5:59 on the clock.


JMU came right back with the next four points in 59 seconds and took a 73-71 lead.


Florida was then whistled for a shot clock violation, but JMU couldn’t take advantage, as Hislop missed a shot and Moss was there for the rebound. Bonds then pulled up for a short shot in the paint with 3:30 left and the game was tied for the 10th time.


Hislop, however, wasn’t finished and canned another fade-away jumper and JMU led 75-73 with 3:13 on the clock.


Both teams missed shots and committed turnovers during the next minute before Needles drilled a three-pointer with 1:29 remaining and Florida regained the lead, 79-77.


Hislop came right back and anwered with a three-pointer 23 seconds later and the Dukes held the 80-79 edge with 66 seconds left.


That’s when Miller drove the lane, made the shot and was fouled, setting the stage for the final minute of play as Florida scored the last six points for the win.


The teams matched each other’s scores for nearly the entire first half that featured six tied scores and four lead changes.


The period started with an offensive barrage, as the Gators were hitting 50 percent (8-16) from the floor and the Dukes 63.6 percent (7-11) through the opening 6:49 of the game and the contest was tied a 18 with 13:11 to play.


After James Madison held a 16-12 lead with 14:26 remaining, Florida used an 18-9 run to take a 30-25 edge, capped by back-to-back three-pointers from Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.). The Dukes called a timeout and successfully halted the run, as Kirby Burkholder converted one of her two three-pointers shortly after the 30-second break.


They were huge. Lily had back-to-back three-pointers in the first half, as well, and when you have a possession ballgame and have a shooter who hits back-to-back threes it causes a coach to call a timeout and then they don’t have one at the end of the game. Those become huge plays, even when they happen 30 minutes earlier.


Moss answered with a pair of free throws, but Gwathmey followed with another from deep for the hosts, who cut the Gator lead to one.


Christin Mercer (Douglasville, Ga.) then put back an offensive rebound before Hislop answered with one for the Dukes.


Moss struck again with the next four points and extended Florida’s lead to five, 38-33, with 2:20 on the clock.


Precious Hall then nailed JMU’s sixth trey of the half, before Miller followed with one for the Gators with 51 seconds remaining.


Kanita Shepherd ended the first half scoring with a bucket in the paint for JMU, as Florida took a 41-38 lead into the locker room.


The Gators shot 43.2 percent during the opening half, including 6-of-10 from the three-point arc, and held the 23-19 rebounding edge.


The Dukes hit 44.1 percent (15-34) from the floor, including 6-of-14 from deep.


Moss led all scorers with 14 points during the first half, while collecting five rebounds.







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