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Jaterra Bonds scored a game-high 18 points in the win. (Photos: Matt Pendleton Photography)

Thursday March 6, 2014Gators Hold Off Mississippi State in SEC Tournament Second Round

Duluth, GA

Jaterra Bonds scored a game-high 18 points in the win. (Photos: Matt Pendleton Photography)

Senior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored a game-high 18 points, Georgia-native Kayla Lewis (Duluth, Ga.) recorded 17 points and the Gators used complete team effort to earn a 71-67 victory against Mississippi State in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., on Thursday.

 

Florida (19-11) won its opening round game in the league’s postseason tournament for the fourth consecutive year and Thursday’s game wasn’t without a fight.

 

The Gators dominated the first half and took a 42-29 lead after hitting an impressive 59.3 percent (16-27) from the floor.

 

Florida maintained a steady lead through the opening three minutes of the second half, holding a 48-35 lead, before Mississippi State ripped off a 21-7 run over the next 8:44 span and took a 56-55 lead with 7:51 remaining.

 

Sophomore Cassie Peoples (San Antonio, Texas) then came up huge by nailed a deep jumper from the left corner and followed with a three-pointer on consecutive Gator offensive possessions that sparked an 11-2 run and Florida held a 66-58 lead with 2:18 on the clock.

 

The Bulldogs answered by scoring the next five points of the game that included a four-point-play by Kendra Grant, who finished with a team-high 14 points.

 

After one free throw from Peoples, Grant nailed her third three of the game and Florida’s lead was cut to two points with 50 seconds remaining.

 

Bonds followed with a pair of free throws and Peoples, who ended with 13 points, four assists and two steals, converted both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line with 10 seconds left and sealed Florida’s 10th win this season decided by 10 points or less.

 

Sophomore Antoinette Bannister (Jacksonville, Fla.) stepped up in her collegiate postseason debut, scoring eight of her 10 points during a big Gator first half.

 

Updated Records: Florida 19-11 … Mississippi State 19-13

 

First Half at a Glance

·         What started out as a tight first half became an all-Florida affair by halftime.

·         UF staged the first run of the game with an eight-point spurt to take a seven-point lead early. MSU came right back with an 8-0 run and regained the lead. That began a streak of five consecutive lead changes in a 1:34 span.

·         With MSU holding a 14-13 lead with 12:51 remaining, Florida closed the half on a 22-8 run for its 42-29 lead.

 

Turning Point

·         Cassie Peoples halted MSU’s momentum by scoring five consecutive points late in the game after the Lady Bulldogs erased a 15-point deficit and took a 56-55 lead with 7:51 remaining.

 

Survive and Advance

·         Thursday’s win was the fourth consecutive year the Gators have won their first game in the SEC Tournament.

·         Florida is now 19-33 all-time in SEC Tournament games, including 5-6 under Amanda Butler.

·         The Gators improved to 14-13 in this round of the SEC Tournament.

·         UF holds a 4-16 all-time record in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal round.

 

Doubling Up

·         Jaterra Bonds scored 18 points, her sixth consecutive game scoring in double-digits; her team-leading 25th game this year in double-figures and the 81st career double-figure scoring game.

·         Kayla Lewis finished with 17 points (8-10 FG), six rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots; recorded her fifth straight double-figure scoring game, the 18th this year and the 34th of her career.

·         Cassie Peoples scored 13 points (2-2 threes) for her second straight double-figure scoring game, as well as her 15th this year and her career.

·         Antoinette Bannister totaled 10 points (4-8 FG) and produced her fourth double-figure scoring game this year and fifth of career; first double-figure scoring game since 18 points at Ole Miss on Feb. 2.

 

MARCH Madness - Birthday Style!

·         Head Coach Amanda Butler celebrated her 42nd birthday on Thursday.

·         The Gators are 2-1 in seven years playing on Coach Butler’s birthday.

 

UF vs. MSU: The Series

·         Florida defeated Mississippi State, 82-72, on Jan. 2 in Gainesville in the SEC regular-season opener for both teams.

·         It was 64 days between that first meeting and Thursday’s SEC Tournament game.

·         The Gators improved to 25-18 lead in the all-time series, including a 4-2 record in neutral site games and 4-1 in SEC Tournament action.

 

Free Throw Woes

·         UF hit just 12-20 free throws, the second straight game hitting under 70 percent.

 

Numbers Watch

·         Kayla Lewis scored her 725th career point during the game and collected her 525th career rebound.

·         Cassie Peoples scored her 300th career point.

·         Carlie Needles scored her 425th career point and dished her 99th career assist

 

Share the Wealth

·         For the 17th time this year, every Gator who played in the game, scored in the game.

 

Career Climbing

·         Seniors Jaterra Bonds & Lily Svete played in the 134th game of their respective careers, tied with each other for the second-most in UF history – one shy of tying the 135-game mark played Jennifer George from 2009-13.

·         Jaterra Bonds started the 113th game of her career, the fifth-most in UF history (No. 4 is 115 by Talatha Bingham, 1996-99)

 

Streaks and Stuff

·         Jaterra Bonds started for the 100th consecutive game, the third-longest streak in program history (No. 2 is 109 by Murriel Page, 1994-98)

·         Jaterra Bonds scored in the 55th consecutive game – the longest active streak by a current Gator

 

Local Flavor

·         Redshirt junior Kayla Lewis is a native of the Peach State and is from Decatur, located just 18 miles from Duluth.

 

Lewis’ Home Away From Home

·         Redshirt junior Kayla Lewis played the final high school game of her career at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, leading Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) High School in 2010 to a successful defense of its Class AAAA State Championship, scoring 20 points in the final versus Northwest Whitfield en route to the Panthers winning their third consecutive state title.

·         In the 2009 title game - also played at The Arena at Gwinnett Center - Lewis totaled 16 points and 15 rebounds against Fayette County and was named MVP of the 2009 state tournament.

·         The 2010 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year who also was named 2010 Miss Georgia Basketball, totaled during her four-year prep career 1,349 points (13.8 ppg), 691 rebounds (7.1 rpg), 162 steals (1.7 spg), 151 assists (1.5 apg) and 140 blocked shots (1.4 pg), while shooting 52 percent from the floor.

·         This year, Lewis is averaging 11.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and has started every game for the Gators.

 

Thrillers!

·         16 of UF’s games have been decided by 10 points or less (10-6 record in those games).

·         10 of the Gator’s 16 SEC games were decided by 10 points or less (6-4 in those games).

 

 

Official Postgame Press Conference (transcribed by ASAP Sports)

UF Head Coach Amanda Butler, Jaterra Bonds and Kayla Lewis:

THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started with an opening comment from coach and the student‑athletes.

 

COACH BUTLER:  A great win.  Mississippi State is just a really tough team to play against.  Vic does a fantastic job.  His kids always play hard.

·         I'm just proud of mine for the battle and resilience they showed, never doubting, even when we gave the lead up, to just bounce back, trust their teammates, their coaches and the process.

·         But really, really strong victory today, for sure.

 

JATERRA BONDS:  I think it's good preparation for our next game.

 

KAYLA LEWIS:  Just like coach said, it's good for us to be in this tournament and take one game at a time.

·         Mississippi State is a good team.  They have good players, players that are all SEC.  Fouls were called that kept people out on both sides.  It was nice to survive and win.

 

Q.  Coach, talk about Kayla's performance.

·         COACH BUTLER:  I think that Kayla's athleticism is what you see because that's the most obvious thing.  That's much more about Kayla's desire, the plays that she made.  That's what makes me proud of those numbers.  It's not can she jump higher than someone or is she stronger than someone?  It's about, I'm not going to be denied, I'm not going to let you score on this.  It comes from a positive, team‑oriented place.

 

Q.  What adjustments did you make when Mississippi State made the late run?

·         COACH BUTLER:  The biggest thing was to calm down.  Guys, we're fine.  We're doing things that we weren't doing earlier.  Why are we doing that?  What makes us good?  What got us the lead?  Let's do that stuff.  There's other stuff we're doing right now that's not working so well.

·         Our leaders, upperclassmen, showed great composure, even though they were guilty of some of those mistakes. Collectively we did a good job of getting back to this is the way we need to play, these are the things that make us a good team, these are things that aren't, so let's leave them on the bench.

 

Q.  What were your thoughts when Mississippi State had taken the lead?

·         KAYLA LEWIS:  Well, in this league, everybody is good, everybody is going to make a run.  You have to be able to weather the storm, that's what we did.  Cassie hit that three‑pointer giving us five straight points at the end.  Putting us back up by one.  Just having the mindset of okay, they're going to be making a run and we just have to answer.

·         JATERRA BONDS:  I just tried to tell everybody in the huddle to stay composed, they were going to keep penetrating and get it in.

·         Everybody is going to make their runs, but you have to come back and answer.  We made some silly turnovers, I know I was guilty for four of them, in the second half.  Just to be able to bounce back and stay composed together at the end.

 

Q.  Coach, your thoughts on playing Kentucky for a third time?

·         COACH BUTLER:  We're playing Kentucky.  I think at this point, how many times we've played them or what those previous outcomes were just really aren't a factor.  That's one of the things we talked about coming into this tournament, we want to be really, really fresh.

·         It should be reflected in our energy and our outlook on whoever our opponents are going to be.

·         We know it will be a great contest.  Again, one of the best teams not just in the league but in the country.  Another fantastic opportunity for us.

 

Q.  They have the tournament projections out there.  Is it tough for you or your team to ignore that stuff, the NCAA tournament projections?

·         COACH BUTLER:  You know, we're in the SEC tournament right now.  I don't think it's hard.  That's one of the things I really trust about our team, is our leadership.  They're going to drive the conversations that we're having in the hotel or in the locker room.

·         The NCAA tournament, we'll get worried about that when we're in the NCAA tournament.  I don't think there's any question we're in the NCAA tournament.  I just think it's fun for outside people to talk about that and project, do all that sort of thing.

·         We're in the SEC tournament right now.  That's the only thing our team is worried about.  I think it's one of the things special about this group, is they've had a really, really razor‑like focus on what's important.  What's important right now is Kentucky, and that's it.

 

Q.  Coach, how does this rate in terms of birthday presents you've received?

·         COACH BUTLER:  Best ever.

 

 

Next Gator Game at a Glance:

#5 Seed Florida (19-11) vs. #4 Seed, #12/13 Kentucky (22-7)

2014 SEC Tournament Quarterfinal

Fri., March 7 * 2:30 p.m. ET

The Arena at Gwinnett Center (10,305) * Duluth, Ga.

 

Official SEC Tournament Website: http://bit.ly/1g1Okp3

 

Game Coverage & More!

·         Radio: LIVE on ESPN850 WRUF-AM in Gainesville with Adam Schick & Brittany Davis

·         Internet Audio: LIVE thru www.Gatorzone.com (FREE)

·         Television: SportsSouth/FS Southwest/Sun Sports; airs in Gainesville on Fox Sports Florida (Cox Ch. 70/1070; DirecTV 654) with Dave Neal & LaChina Robinson

·         Internet Video: ESPN3.com - http://es.pn/1d1UXqb

·         Internet Scoring: LIVE link thru GatorZone.com (FREE) - http://bit.ly/1n077Xb

·         Tickets: Reserved tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 732-4849 or by visiting SECsports.com. Single session tickets went on sale at the arena box office on March 5

 

Opening Tip

·         Florida won both regular-season games against Kentucky.

·         The Gators earned the No. 5 seed in the 14-team SEC Tournament, their highest since being the No. 4 seed at the 2009 event.

·         Florida finished fifth in the SEC regular-season standings, the Gator’s best finish since 2008-09 when the team tied for third.

·         Florida’s opening round SEC Tournament game on Thur., March 6, is the 42nd birthday of Head Coach Amanda Butler.

·         10 of UF’s 16 SEC games were decided by 10 points or less (6-4)

·         16 of UF’s games have been decided by 10 points or less (10-6 record in those games).

 

On the Line

·         The winner of the 13-game SEC Tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

 

 

For all of the latest information on Florida women’s basketball:

Official Website: www.gatorzone.com/basketball/women

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FloridaWomensBasketball

Twitter: @GatorZoneWBK  and  @CoachButlerUF 

 

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