Junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored 17 points and the Gators’ post players stepped up and helped Florida earn a 61-55 victory against Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum on Thursday evening.
Redshirt-sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) scored 12 points with nine rebounds, freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky) scored 10 points with nine boards and junior center Vicky McIntyre (Omaha, Neb.) contributed 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots for the Gators who earned their first Southeastern Conference road victory of the year.
It was a tight ballgame throughout with Florida’s largest lead of the contest was nine points twice, as the Bulldogs quickly answered both times.
With the Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) holding a 51-42 lead with 8:30 remaining, MSU ripped off a 10-0 run behind a pair of three-pointers from Kendra Grant, who finished with a game-high 23 points, and took a 52-51 lead with 4:30 remaining.
Bonds answered 25 seconds later with a driving layup through traffic and started a game-ending 10-3 run that included six points from the free throw line.
Throughout the game Florida would score on more consecutive possessions, however, the Gators had several of those from the free throw line and came away with one point.
MSU entered the game with a tendency of sending its opponent to the free throw line, with their previous two foes making a combined 75 trips.
Thursday’s game continued that trend, as Florida attempted 39 shots from the charity stripe and made 25, with eight different Gators finding their way to the line paced by Bonds, who converted 8-of-10.
“We had to play some great minutes down the stretch,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “We didn’t play a lot of great minutes early in the ballgame but down the stretch I thought we played our best basketball, very much the way we finished against LSU (on Sunday). I’m really proud of our composure and being able to close it out, especially on someone else’s floor with a couple of players on their team that were having fantastic nights.”
With Florida leading 57-55, Bonds was fouled with 57.8 seconds remaining, but came up with blood on her arm and needed to be subbed out. Freshman January Miller came in a made the first and missed the second, but Moss grabbed her eighth rebound of the game and the Gators maintained possession.
Moss dished to Carlie Needles, who was immediately fouled. Needles converted one of two and Florida held a 60-55 lead with 51.8 seconds remaining.
MSU missed its shot on its next offensive possession and Moss came away with the board, where she again found Needles, who hit one of two and the Gators held the 61-55 edge with 27 seconds left.
The Bulldogs (8-8, 0-3 SEC) were able to get off just one shot in the final seconds that went awry.
Florida committed 19 turnovers that MSU converted into 22 points, but held a commanding 47-30 rebounding advantage in the game.
McIntyre scored the first points of the second half and gave Florida a 32-25 lead and similar to the start of the game, the teams traded scores, with MSU within four points before the Gators scored four straight and took a 38-30 advantage.
It was the third double-figure scoring game of McIntyre’s Gator career, while Bonds tallied her 11th of the season and 39th of her career. Moss recorded her ninth double-figure scoring game and Lewis notched her eighth this year.
The Gators used their sixth different starting lineup of the year, having to replace All-American Jennifer George, who suffered a shoulder injury against LSU on Sunday. George, UF’s leading scorer and rebounder, played a limited role on Thursday.
Florida’s other post players rallied for George, who did play in spurts, as Kayla Lewis stepped up with seven points and four rebounds in the first half, Vicky McIntyre added four points and Christin Mercer chipped in three points and two rebounds.
Neither team shot the ball well to begin the game, as Florida made just one of its first four, but better than MSU’s 1-of-6 effort.
McIntyre, who got her second start of the year, scored the first field goal of the game before Bonds added two free throws. The teams traded scores for the next few minutes when both teams continued to struggle with their respective shots.
McIntyre’s second bucket of the game sparked a 7-0 run, as Lewis scored five straight points and Florida held an early 14-5 lead.
“I was really proud of the way Vicky played,” Butler praised. “She was a difference-maker tonight. She knew she had to be and really stepped up and made the plays we expected her to make. Those blocks were huge. Her rebounds were huge. It was a really, really good all-around game for Mac and a great confidence builder for her going forward.”
Mississippi State came right back with a 13-3 march and tied the score at 18-all with 6:31 remaining.
Mercer completed her fourth three-point play of the season during the run, as the Lady Bulldogs began to find their stroke.
During a four-minute span after Florida took an 18-13 lead, MSU hit 4-of-8 field goals and forced three of the Gator’s 11 first-half turnovers.
Bonds converted a pair of free throws, followed by one from Sydney Moss and another bucket from Lewis and Florida took a 23-18 lead with 5:13 remaining in the period.
MSU came right back with the next five points, getting the tying bucket off an inbounds play.
Florida then turned up its defensive pressure, as Moss collected a steal and dribble the length of the court for a layin. Bonds followed with nearly an identical sequence, before Needles drilled a three-pointer from the top of the arc and gave the Gators a 30-23 lead with 1:41 remaining.
MSU’s Carnecia Williams ended the scoring in the first half and Florida took the 30-25 lead entering the locker room.
The Gators return to the court on Sunday, Jan. 13, when they play host to No. 9 Tennessee in the O’Connell Center, where tip-off is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
Courtesy of UF Communications