Florida Gators women’s basketball defeats #11 Tennessee

Special report on the Florida Gators women’s basketball team:

Tenn. — With their frontcourt saddled with foul trouble and their head coach not with the team, the Gators staged what could be considered an improbable 74-66 victory against No. 12/11 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday evening.

With assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller stepping in on the sideline for head coach Amanda Butler, who was not with the team because of a family emergency, the Gators showed the grit and toughness of their absent leader by defeating the Lady Vols for just the fourth time in the 52-game series history and for just the second time in Knoxville.

VIDEO: Official Postgame Press Conference: http://youtu.be/f59svzaoBIQ
VIDEO: Shimmy Gray-Miller postgame: http://youtu.be/L9c_c-1DbgM
VIDEO: Carlie Needles postgame: http://youtu.be/ypIEzUKgH4c
VIDEO: January Miller postgame: http://youtu.be/Q1XcfCweWkI

How it Happened – A Quarterly Update:
Fourth Quarter:
Ronni Williams, Eleanna Christinaki and Carlie Needles (3) hit field goals during a 7-0 run over a 49-second span and the Gators turned a one-point deficit, 58-57, into a 64-58 lead with seven minutes remaining.

The teams traded baskets and with the Gators holding a four-point lead, Carlie Needles drilled her fifth three-pointer of the game that gave UF a 69-62 lead with 3:16 to go.
UF had a defensive stop, but turned the ball over on its ensuing possession.
UT’s DeShields canned a long jumper with 2:15 on the clock and Needles went down with a cramp on the play and went to the bench with the Gators holding a 69-64 lead.
Williams came back with a bucket inside for a seven-point UF advantage with 1:50 on the clock and the teams continued to trade scores the rest of the way.
Stat of the Quarter: Florida outscored Tennessee, 21-13, in the final frame, when the Gators shot 69.2 percent (9-13) from the floor and UT managed just 28.6 percent (6-21)

Third Quarter:
Gators used a 7-0 run over a 50-second span late in the period and took a 50-49 lead with 1:39 remaining; Carlie Needles and Brooke Copeland hit three-pointers, while Eleanna Christinaki converted one free throw
An 8-0 run cut UF’s deficit to one, 40-39, with 5:54 left in quarter; also within one at 5:16, 42-41, after a tough offensive rebound putback by January Miller.
UF leading scorer and rebounder Ronni Williams picked up her fourth foul at the 9:14 mark of the period.
UF second-leading scorer and rebound Haley Lorenzen picked up her fourth foul at the 3:38 mark of the period.
UF’s third-leading rebounder Tyshara Fleming picked up her fourth foul at the 3:00 mark of the period; fouled out with 30.1 seconds left.
Florida has outscored its opponent in the third quarter 14 times in 15 games this year (only game did not was at Temple in the season opener).
Stat of the Quarter: Florida outscored Tennessee, 24-18 and tied the game at 53 entering the fourth quarter.

Second Quarter:
Florida won a low-scoring second quarter, 13-10.
Gators opened the quarter on a 8-0 run and got within one, 25-24. Scoring during that run was by January Miller, Carlie Needles (3), Christinaki and Lorenzen (1).
Carla Batchelor’s offensive rebound putback tied the game at 29 with 5:17 remaining in the quarter.
The Gators committed six turnovers that resulted in two UT points, an improvement from the opening frame.
Stat of the Quarter: Tennessee shot a mere 11.8 percent from the floor in the second quarter, while UF outrebounded the taller Lady Vols, 15-14.

First Quarter:
Florida struck first with a layup three seconds in from Eleanna Christanki and January Miller followed with a three for a 5-0 Gator lead.
Tennessee used an 11-0 run to build a 16-7 lead that later grew to an 11-point advantage, 20-9, with 2:30 left in the period.
The Gators turned to their defense and Christinaki, who scored seven more points and got UF within six with 11 seconds remaining. UT, however, got the last shot and nailed a three for a 25-16 lead at the end of the period.
Stat of the Quarter: UT converted nine Gator turnovers into 11 points
Individual Stat Line of the Game:
Freshman Eleanna Christinaki: game-high 18 points, game-high 8 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 6 rebounds

Doubling their Fun:
Eleanna Christinaki finished with 18 points and scored in double-figures for the eighth time, tied for the most by a Gator this season
Carlie Needles finished with 15 points and scored in double-figures for the fourth time this season and 38th in career
January Miller finished with 11 points and scored in double-figures for the fifth time this season and 30th in career
Ronni Williams finished with 10 rebounds for her sixth double-figure rebounding game this season and 11th in her career

Updated Records:
Florida: 13-2, 1-1 SEC
Tennessee: 10-4, 1-1 SEC

The Series vs. Tennessee: UPDATED
52-Game Series: UT leads 48-4
UF Home: 2-19; Away: 2-21; Neutral: 0-8

Tennessee had won the last 11 games against Florida.
The Gator’s last win against the Lady Vols was a 66-57 victory on February 8, 2009 in the O’Connell Center.
Florida’s lone win against UT in Knoxville was a 95-93 overtime thriller on February 26, 2006.
Thursday’s win …
Halted Florida’s 11-game skid against the Lady Vols.
Tied for the second-best 15-game start in program history, trailing only the 2008-09 club that opened its season 15-1 before losing its second game. Other teams that started 13-2: 2005-06, 2000-01 and 1984-85.
Equaled the total number of wins the Gators compiled all of the last season.
Halted UF’s overall three-game skid versus SEC teams, dating back to last year.

What’s Next for the Gators:
The Gators continue their road travels to Oxford on Sunday, January 10 when Florida is the inaugural opponent at the brand new Pavilion at Ole Miss.

This will be the second time Florida will be the opponent in an SEC arena launch, having been the inaugural foe when Alabama opened Foster Auditorium for women’s basketball on February 13, 2011

Florida was the debut SEC opponent for the Auburn Arena on January 11, 2009

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.