Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored a game-high 19 points, senior Jennifer George (Fresno, Calif.) collected her 26th career double-double and Florida defeated LSU, 77-72, to earn its first Southeastern Conference victory in a thriller manner on Sunday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
With LSU (10-5, 1-1 SEC) leading by nine points, 58-49, with 11:46 remaining, the Gators (12-4, 1-1 SEC) scored 11 consecutive points in a two-minute span and took a two-point lead with 9:08 left in the game.
Freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) put back an offensive rebound to start the march, before redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) nailed just her fifth three-pointer of the season. Freshman January Miller (Orlando, Fla.) came up with a steal and dished to Bonds, who made the layup and tied the game at 58-all. Moss then secured a defensive rebound and found a Lewis down court and she made the layin to give Florida its first lead since the 10:16 mark of the first half.
The Lady Tigers, who committed two of their 15 turnovers during Florida’s run, halted the spree with a layup by Shanece McKinney that produced the fourth tied score of the game.
Theresa Plaisance tacked on two more for LSU inside and swung the lead back in the visitor’s favor, as there were three lead changes and four tied scores in the final 9:31 of the contest.
George then converted both ends of a one-and-one from the free throw line with 6:09 remaining, bringing the Gators within one, 62-61.
George blocked Adrienne Webb’s shot and collected a defense rebound with 5:06 remaining, but injured her shoulder on the play and would not return to the court after having a strong performance of 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals, including her seventh double-double of the season .
Junior Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.) stepped in for George at the line and made both ends of her one-and-one trip that gave Florida a 64-62 lead.
LSU came right back with an inside bucket from Danielle Ballard, but Moss calmly nailed two free throws with 3:53 on the clock and Florida would not trail again, as Lewis scored the next four points of the game and gave the Gators a 70-64 advantage with 2:51 remaining.
LSU closed within three points three times in the last 51 seconds, but Bonds answered with a driving, athletic bucket the first time with 29 seconds remaining. McKinney came back with a score and the Tigers forced a turnover with 20 seconds remaining and had the ball with a chance to tie, but 5-foot-6 redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, Col.) came up with the first blocked shot of her career, swatting Adrienne Webb’s three-point attempt, then collected the miss and was fouled. She then converted two free throws that gave Florida a 75-70 lead with 12 seconds left.
Webb did hit a shot from inside the arc with four ticks and LSU fouled Bonds, who drilled two more from the line and ended the game’s scoring, helping Florida capture its 15th consecutive home victory, as well as present head coach Amanda Butler with the 150th win of her eight-year overall tenure.
“I think we beat a very good team tonight, that’s the first thing I’d like to make really clear,” Butler said. “I think LSU has a great squad and is a postseason team and it was important for us to get them here and take care of our business on our home court. “
Bonds also dished a game-high five assists with three steals for the Gators, while Lewis added 10 points and six rebounds.
“A lot of things that I’m proud of, I was just telling these guys (Carlie, JT, and Kayla) is that they were our core tonight, they did a great job of sustaining this through a lot of different ups and downs and that’s important,” Butler said. “And what I think it’s great about our team is that core can change. A lot of people can step in and do different things at different times. You had Mac (Vicky McIntyre) and (Christin) Mercer rotating offensively and defensively–they did a great job of handling that. Again, a great team win against a very good team in front of a fantastic crowd as well.”
Plaisance scored 17points to lead four LSU players in double-figure scoring.
George set the tempo in the first half as she scored the first seven points of the ball game on a pair of hook shots and a reverse layup that resulted in a three-point play.
Redshirt junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) fed off of George’s momentum and drained her first three of day and put the Gators up 10-4 over the Tigers heading into the first media timeout.
Mercer scored off an inbounds play which led to a made free throw and a 13-6 favor for the Gators. LSU’s Ballard answered with a layup, but with a missed shot by Moss and a strong put-back by George the Gators were rolling on offense and looked as though they couldn’t be stopped.
The Tigers trickled along, capitalizing off Gator turnovers to allow jumpers from Ballard, Webb and a three-pointer from Kenney to pull LSU within two at the 12:41 mark.
Moss hit a jumper to make a 19-15 advantage for the Gators, but LSU’s Lutley answered with a basket from beyond the arc to diminish the Gator lead to one, 19-18 at the 11:40 mark. Lutley was then able to tie the game for the first time all day at 20 a pieced by hitting two free throws.
The Tigers seemed to have taken the Gators spark nearing the nine minute mark of the first half when they took the lead off a Theresa Plaisance three at the top of the key to make it a 25-22 contest. The Gators were 0-for-3 before LSU’s Plaisance knocked down another trey to force a Florida timeout.
Bonds connected from the charity stripe on back-to-back occasions to pull the Gators within three of the Tigers, 29-26, before Moss sank a three that put some life back into the Florida offense.
Things started to really heat up around the five-minute mark with fast-paced transition and intense play. LSU’s Webb hit a jumper in the lane which led to nicely executed Svete three-pointer from the corner. Webb answered right back with a three of her own before LSU went on 5-0 run to extend their advantage to 41-34 at the 2:30 mark.
Both teams missed opportunities for points on several trips down the court which was the result of scrappy play and defensive rebounding. Needles mustered a charge against the purple and yellow which led to a George layup and brought the Gators back within five of the Tigers, 36-41.
LSU’s Plaisance hit a short-corner shot with three-seconds remaining in the half to allow the Tigers to take a 44-36 lead into halftime.
The Gators return to action on Thurs., January 10,when the team travels to Starkville to take on Mississippi State beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Courtesy of UF Communications