Florida rally falls short at Texas A&M

Junior Lily Svete nailed five three-pointers and led a furious late rally that fell short and the University of Florida women’s basketball team dropped a 78-71 decision at No. 11/13 Texas A&M at Reed Arena on Thursday evening.

Trailing by 21 points with 11:10 remaining, the Gators outscored the Aggies 38-24 the rest of the way, closing to within four points with 27 seconds remaining and again with 19 ticks on the clock, but couldn’t quite close out the comeback and had their two-game win streak come to an end.

“We showed some tremendous fight, in particular from Jaterra (Bonds) and some of our younger players,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought they would never give up and I’m very proud of that, but it’s not excusable. The mistakes that we made and our post defense was something we worked very hard on for two days and we didn’t carry it over to the game. That’s tough to stomach. It was a great fight and we put ourselves in position at the end and, again, it was just a mental miscue. We gave up a huge turnover right there and put them back at the free throw line. It took us out of an opportunity to do anything.”

Svete’s 15 points, all in the second half, tied a career-high for the Indiana native and was her fifth double-figure scoring game of the season. Junior Jaterra Bonds led all Gator scorers with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field, while she tied a season-high with eight assists. January Miller added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Gators (15-10, 4-7 SEC).

“It was huge for us, definitely a difference maker,” Butler said of the Gator’s outside shooting. “Obviously, the three-point shot can bridge a gap very quickly. Lily has been shooting the ball confidently and Carlie (Needles) as well. They both shot the ball great. I’m really proud of the way we played behind the three-point line. That was not our problem. How we played in the paint was our problem.”

Aggie (20-5, 10-1 SEC) center Kelsey Bone led all scorers with 31 points and 10 rebounds and forward Kristi Bellock added 19 points and eight rebounds.

“We just need to go back and look at our starting lineup,” Butler continued. “Jennifer (George) didn’t give us very much tonight. She took 14 shots tonight and only scored six points and had four turnovers. Maybe we need to mix things up again. We just need to go back to work and regroup and come back out with more fire from the start because we had a tough first half to try and overcome.”

Florida cut a 16-point deficit to two points with 1:48 remaining in the first half, but Adrienne Pratcher’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer swung the momentum entirely in the direction of the Aggies, who took their 34-27 halftime lead into the second half where they opened with a 20-6 run over the first 8:50 and took a commanding 54-33 lead.

The Gators fought back with an 8-2 run and shaved their deficit to 15 points, 56-41, with 8:38 remaining.

From there the teams traded scores for the next two-plus minutes and Florida wasn’t able to cut into the Aggie lead.

Miller banked in a shot from just inside the arc and Jaterra Bonds knocked down two free throws that helped bring UF to within 14 points, 63-49.

Bonds then converted her 11th three-point play of the season, which topped the 900-point plateau for her career, and had the Gators within 11 points, 63-52, with 4:05 on the clock.

Adrienne Pratcher then streaked down the floor on the ensuing in-bounds pass and converted the easy layup that halted UF’s 6-0 spurt and had TAMU up, 65-52, with four minutes to play.

Florida refused to quit and January Miller nailed a three-pointer from the right-side of the arc after the media timeout and the Gators quietly were within 10 points, 65-55, with 3:07 remaining.

After a defensive stand, the Gators had the ball but were whistled for an illegal screen. Kayla Lewis helped out by drawing a charge on the other end of the floor and Lily Svete made the defensive effort even more of a help as she nailed a three-pointer and Florida was within seven points, 66-58 with 2:08 to play.

Bone converted a pair of free throws, before Svete nailed another trey and the Gators trailed just 67-61 with 1:34 remaining.

The Aggies worked the shot clock and dumped the ball inside to Bone, who was fouled going up for the short jumper and made two free throws with 1:06 to play.

The Gators, however, continued their sizzling outside shooting and Svete drilled her three straight three-pointer, this one with just under a minute remaining and brought the Gators within five points, 69-64.

Florida then was whistled for a foul defending on the perimeter and sent Bone to the line again with 34.7 seconds remaining, where she made one.

Jaterra Bonds then raced down the court and converted a layup around Bone with 27 seconds left and Florida was within four points, 70-66.

The Aggies had trouble inbounding the ball and had to call a timeout, but later got the ball in and the Gators immediately fouled Pratcher with 25.6 seconds left. The Aggie senior made both, but again Bonds sank the uncontested layup at the other end and Florida was back within four with 19.3 seconds on the clock.

The Gators fouled Kristi Bellock, who made two free throws. Florida then had a miscommunication inbounding the ball, as it was rolled on court to save time, but the Gators weren’t aware it had entered the court and Pratcher scampered the loose ball and Florida was again forced to foul. Pratcher made two more from the charity stripe for a 76-68 score with 12.3 seconds left.

Svete struck again with her fifth trey of the half and the game and brought the Gators within five points with just five ticks on the clock. Bone was fouled for the final time and she made good on both to finish the game’s scoring and end her night with 31 points, hitting 11-of-19 from the floor and 9-of-11 free throws along with 10 rebounds.

The Aggies converted 22-of-26 free throws, including 12-of-13 in the final 1:44 to seal their win.

Florida hit 51.5 percent from the floor during the second half and 29-of-63 overall for 46 percent, while TAMU nailed 46.6 percent (27-58) overall.

The Gators hit 5-of-7 free throws as well as 8-of-12 three-pointers during the game, but were out-rebounded 39-27, giving up 12 offensive boards.

Texas A&M jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead in the first three-plus minutes of the game, but the Gators scored three straight points – a free throw from Christin Mercer, who netted UF’s first points of the game, and a six-foot pull-up jumper from January Miller – and closed within four points with 15:45 remaining.

The Aggies, however, ripped off a 12-0 run over the next 3:57 and took a 21-5 lead at the 11:23 mark of the first half.

Florida finally gathered themselves on their first trip to Reed Arena since 1994 and countered with an 11-0 march of its own during a 5:26 span and closed the deficit to five points, 21-16, with 5:23 left in the first half.

Jaterra Bonds got the spurt started with a pair of driving jumpers. Bonds then collected a defensive rebound and found Sydney Moss down court, who hit the layup. Jennifer George added a left-handed hook shot and Carlie Needles capped the spree with her first three-pointer of the game.

The teams traded scores for the next two minutes before Moss hit a field goal and Needles drilled her second trey that brought the Gators within two points, 27-25, with 2:27 remaining in the half.

The Aggies hit a bucket, but Mercer responded with one for the Gators and kept within two points. TAMU struck again and UF held for the last shot. George’s layup with four seconds left was off the mark and Kelsey Bone, who had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half, collected the miss and passed to Adrienne Pratcher, who drained the halfcourt shot at the buzzer that gave the Aggies a 34-27 halftime lead.

Florida managed to hit just one of the first seven shots and just two of the first 12 before the run, ending the half with an improved 40 percent (12-30) mark for the half.

TAMU sizzled at the beginning of the game and finished the period sinking 41.2 percent (14-34) overall, while holding the 22-16 rebounding advantage that included seven offensive boards, as the Aggies held a 9-0 cushion in second-chance points.

Florida continues its challenging slate, next playing host to No. 13/12 Georgia (20-4, 8-3 SEC) on Sunday, Feb. 17 in the O’Connell Center where tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

Courtesy of UF Communications