“What my prayer was before the game is that they get what they deserve, and that is absolutely what happened today,” said Gators head coach Amanda Butler. “This team, but in particular these seniors, got what they deserved.”
In front of a crowd of 3,049, the largest of the season, the team celebrated its Senior Night by upsetting No.18/15 Georgia 61-57 Sunday.
“You always want to win on Senior Day, that makes after the game a lot more enjoyable,” Jordan Jones said. “Aside from that, beating Georgia, any opportunity to beat Georgia, is huge.”
It was especially huge at this point in the season for the Gators.
Recently, the team had really struggled to take the necessary steps to continue moving forward. Sunday, Florida silenced its critics who said they couldn’t beat the Southeastern Conference’s elite programs.
On Senior Night, it was a junior who led Florida (17-10, 7-7) to victory. Jennifer George scored 15 points, nine of which came in the second half, to pace the Gators.
After dealing with the effects of an ankle injury suffered earlier in conference play, George has returned to form just when the team needed her to most.
“It feels great. I think we’re one of the hardest working teams in the SEC and just to get the rewards feels good,” she said. “We’ve had so many challenges in the past with our close losses; we’re just at a point where we refuse to lose.”
It was that determination which allowed George and the Gators to excel against a formidable Georgia frontcourt. The Gators outrebounded the Bulldogs 42-32, having multiple chances to knock in the basket.
His team’s inability to rebound effectively is what cost them the game, Georgia head coach Andy Landers said after the game.
It was a quiet beginning for George, who picked up her second foul of the game with 14:17 remaining in the first half. She played just eight minutes of basketball in the first half.
However, despite George picking up her third foul less than five minutes into the second half, coach Butler rolled the dice and left in her the game most of the rest of the way.
George responded with nine points in the second half, including scoring on two of the team’s most crucial possessions.
Following a made jumper by Jasmine Hassell with 2:47 left in regulation, Georgia took a 54-53 lead. Giving up the lead late in games has often led to Florida’s offense stagnating or turning the ball over.
Sunday, George took over instead. Her back-to-back field goals gave the Gators the lead.
Four consecutive made free throws by Lanita Bartley in the final 10 seconds ensured the Gators would never give the lead back.
After the game, Bartley joked she had complete confidence in her free throws given how much practice the team has had shooting them as of late.
That practiced paid off, as Bartley made nine of her 10 attempts on the game. Her 11 points, along with 10 from Andrea Vilaro Aragones, rounded out the Gators in double-figures offensively.
Aragones followed up her career-high eight points at Vanderbilt with a new career-high Sunday. She scored 10 points, including sinking two three-pointers that brought the crowd to its feet.
In the loss, Georgia was led by Jasmine James, who scored 15 points.
Ann Marie Armstrong, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Jasmine Hassell, the team’s leading scorer overall, had just eight points
Coming into the game, the limiting of those two players was a focus for the Gators. As they have done many times this season, the Gators were able to take away the other team’s top players.
Sunday, Georgia’s supporting cast did not have enough to earn them the win.
With the win, the Gators now look forward to Thursday night, their final home game of the season. Florida takes on Mississippi State (14-13, 4-10) at 7 p.m.
You can follow Gator Country writer Phillip Heilman on Twitter at phillip_heilman.