Special report on the Florida Gators women’s basketball team
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Florida overcame a 10-point deficit with 15:28 remaining and forced overtime where the Gators emerged with a 71-66 victory against Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena Thursday evening. Junior Simone Westbrook converted a driving layup with one second remaining that helped send the game into overtime. Freshman Eleanna Christinaki, who finished with a team-best 16 points, converted a driving layup with 17 seconds left in overtime that gave the Gators a one-point lead and Florida sealed the win at the free throw line, where seniors Cassie Peoples hit two with 6.7 seconds left and Carlie Needles converted two more with 2.6 on the clock. Senior Carla Batchelor finished with 11 points and six rebounds, while Westbrook added 10 points for the Gators, who were outrebounded 51-44, but collected 21 offensive boards. Florida (17-4, 5-3 SEC) forced 24 Arkansas turnovers and turned those into 23 points compared with the five points Arkansas (9-12, 4-4 SEC) managed off of the Gator's 17 miscues. How it Happened: Overtime at a Glance * Eleanna Christinaki scored the first points of overtime, however, Arkansas came right back with the next four points and took the two-point lead with 3:52 remaining. * Haley Lorenzen scored inside and tied the game at 63. * After one free throw from Jessica Jackson gave UA the lead with 1:53 left, Lorenzen came down and * Jackson blocked Lorenzen and Arkansas came down and scored to take a 66-65 lead with 31 seconds remaining. * Florida missed its next shot, but Brooke Copeland came up with the offensive board. * Christinaki scored inside with 17 seconds remaining and gave Florida a 67-66 lead. * Arkansas missed its first shot on its ensuing possession and the ball was tipped out of bounds. The officials went to the replay to determine which team would get the ball and it went to Florida with 7.4 seconds remaining under the Arkansas basket. * Cassie Peoples was fouled immediately and went to the free throw line with 6.7 seconds left. She made both and gave Florida a 69-66 lead. * Arkansas called a timeout and would get the ball at its half of the court. A miscommunication sent the ball out of bounds and Florida inbounded to Carlie Needles, who dribbled and was fouled with 2.6 seconds to go. * Needles made both to seal the victory. * Quarter's Score: Florida 12, Arkansas 7 * Game Score: Florida 71, Arkansas 66 Fourth Quarter at a Glance * Arkansas scored first and had the early lead after the teams entered the final period tied. * Carlie Needles broke through and hit a trey after missing her first seven shots from the floor and gave the Gators a 47-46 lead with 8:07 remaining. * Arkansas scored the next three points for a two-point edge, but Eleanna Christinaki converted a three-point-play and the lead swung back to the Gators, 50-49. * The teams traded scored and leads twice more before Simone Westbrook and Ronni Williams hit from inside and Williams added one free throw, as Florida took a 55-51 lead with 3:03 remaining. * Jessica Jackson came right back for Arkansas with a three-point-play and UF's lead was trimmed to one, 55-54. * Carla Batchelor then putback a tough offensive rebound and UF kept the lead, before Devin Cosper nailed a three-pointer and the Razorbacks tied the game at 57 with 2:04 remaining. * Florida called a timeout with 1:18 to go and the game tied at 57, but couldn't convert offensively and on that play Williams fouled out * Neither team could score for the next 59 seconds until Arkansas hit one free throw and took a 58-57 with 65 ticks remaining. * The Gators were called for traveling on their next possession, but held defensively and came down the court and called a timeout with 23.3 seconds remaining. * Cassie Peoples shot was off the mark and Jessica Jackson corralled the miss. She was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line with 4.2 seconds remaining. Jackson missed the first and made the second to give the hosts a 59-57 lead. * Florida called its final timeout immediately and got the ball at half court for one final try. * Simone Westbrook drove the lane, pulled up and dropped in a floating 5 footer with one second remaining to tie the game and send it into overtime. * There were 11 lead changes and 8 tied scores during regulation. * Quarter's Score: Florida 15, Arkansas 15 * Game Score: Florida 59, Arkansas 59 Third Quarter at a Glance * Eleanna Christinaki scored the first points of the second half and the Gators held their first lead since the opening bucket of the game. * The lead was short-lived as Arkansas scored 33 seconds later and followed with another score for a three-point edge. * After Simone Westbrook's shot, UA used a 9-0 run for a 39-29 lead with 5:25 on the clock. * Florida answered with a 10-1 spurt with scores from Tyshara Fleming (2), Cassie Peoples (3), Dyandria Anderson (1), January Miller (2) and Ronni Williams (2) and closed within one, 40-30, at the 2:09 mark. * UA halted its field goal drought with a layup inside before Christinaki followed with five straight points that included a three-pointer and Florida held a 44-42 lead with 43 seconds left in the period. * Arkansas scored the final points of the quarter and tied the score at 44 * Florida opened the quarter hitting just 3-of-15 from the floor and finished with 8-of-25 (32 percent), while Arkansas converted 61.5 percent (8-of-13) * Quarter's Score: Florida 19, Arkansas 18 * Game Score: Florida 44, Arkansas 44 First Half Numbers of Note * Florida trailed at halftime for the eighth time this year (5-3 record) * Arkansas held a commanding 23-14 rebounding advantage that included 10 offensive rebounds. * Carla Batchelor led the Gators with 9 points * Arkansas was led by Kelsey Brooks' 12 points. * Seven different Gators scored. * Ronni Williams played just seven minutes because of foul trouble (2 points, 0 rebounds). Second Quarter at a Glance * Arkansas hit its first four shots from the field that included a pair of three-pointers and took a five-point lead, 21-16, that forced UF to call a timeout at the 5:37 mark of the period. * The teams traded buckets for the next couple minutes after the timeout before the Razorbacks hit a shot after one free throw for a six-point edge with 2:04 remaining. * Eleanna Christinaki, UF's leading scorer in SEC games, connected on her first points of the game before Carla Batchelor nailed her third trey of the game with 1:09 remaining to close the period's scoring. * Quarter's Score: Arkansas 15, Florida 15 * Game Score: Arkansas 26, Florida 25 First Quarter at a Glance * Florida fell behind by five points early and battled back to get within one by the end of the quarter, finishing the period with a layup from Cassie Peoples off an inbounds play. * Carla Batchelor drilled two three-pointers in the first quarter, the first time she has connected a two from deep since the season-opener. * Leading scorer and rebounder Ronni Williams was whistled for her second personal foul 2:43 into the game. * Score: Arkansas 11, Florida 10 The Series vs. Arkansas * 34-Game Series: UF leads 25-9 * UF Home: 11-3; Away: 10-5; Neutral: 4-1 * Florida won last year's meeting against Arkansas, 72-58, in Gainesville. * The Gators had lost their last two trips to Fayetteville by a combined six points, including the Jan. 29, 2012 double-overtime thriller, 73-72. * Prior to Thursday, UF's last win against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville was a 94-78 affair on Jan. 3, 2010. * Four of the last five games in the series have been decided by seven points or less. * Eight of the last 11 games have been decided by single digits. Tonight's Win... * Improves UF's overall record to 17-4 (5-3 in SEC) and ties for the third-best 21-game start in program history, trailing only the 19-2 record of the 2008-09 and the 2000-01 clubs. * Is UF's first win against Arkansas in Fayetteville since Jan. 3, 2010. * Improves UF's overall away record to 6-2 this season, including 3-1 in the SEC. News and Numbers of Note * The game featured 16 lead changes and 10 tied scores. * It was Florida's first overtime game this season and first since February 19, 2015 vs. Vanderbilt (L, 76-75) * Florida is now 19-21 all-time in overtime games. * Simone Westbrook scored in double figures for the sixth time this season. * Eleanna Christinaki scored in double figures for the 12th time this season - tied for the most on the team. * Carla Batchelor scored in double figures for the second time this season, third in career. * Carla Batchelor netted a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter - the first time she has hit a pair from deep since hitting two in the season-opener at Temple (Nov. 13) * Game Starters: Williams, Fleming, Needles, Christinaki, Westbrook * Second Half Starters: Williams, Lorenzen, Needles, Christinaki, Westbrook Quotes from the Court - UF Head Coach Amanda Butler Opening Statement: "(We played) complete, team basketball in the second half. We were disappointed with the way we played the first half. You've got to give Arkansas credit for that. But to be able to come out and mount that type of effort in the second half, to win an overtime game on someone else's home floor is very hard to do. I was really proud we executed with such precision in critical moments." What changed the momentum after being down by 10 points: "It was one of the things we talked about before the game; we knew it was going to happen. We talk all the time about the things we do right and the things we do that make us a good team. Those were not going to be tested in the moments where everything was going our way. It was going to be in a really tough moment. Our team did a great job of sticking to our guns, sticking to the things we know make us good. I think our team did a great job of that. It's a great demonstration that they know who they are and what makes them good." Impact that Carla Batchelor made off the bench: "I felt Carla played with a lot of toughness. She played like a senior. When she got good looks, she knocked them down. When she got tired, she asked out. When she had opportunities to grab loose balls, she went for it with everything she had. Huge minutes for us." On Eleanna Christinaki's and Simone Westbrook's clutch baskets down the stretch: "They're both really hard to guard ... a tough matchup for anyone. Our team has a lot of confidence in them with the ball in their hands. That's what we did. We put the ball in their hands and gave them a ball-screen. Our post players, Haley Lorenzen in particular, did a really good job of setting some ball screens and rolling hard to the basket. It's really hard to talk about just one or two people, because there were so many contributions across the board." What's Next? * Florida returns to the O'Connell Center for a two-game stand against a pair of nationally ranked opponents. * The Gators play host to No. 12 Kentucky on Sunday, January 31 at 1 p.m. * Florida then welcomes No. 10 Texas A&M to the O'Dome on Thursday, February 4 at 7 p.m.