STARKVILLE, Miss. — Junior co-captains Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) and Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) combined for 37 points and led the Florida women’s basketball team to a 67-60 victory against Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Gators earned their second true road win of the year, while keeping the Lady Bulldogs searching for their first Southeastern Conference victory of the season.
Stewart scored a season-high 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the floor, while grabbing six rebounds, all in the second half.
Jones finished with 18 points, nailing 4-of-7 from the three-point arc and more importantly 6-of-6 from the free throw line, all of which came in the final 6:41 of the game. Jones’ final field goal came with 1:48 remaining after Mississippi State (8-12, 0-8 SEC) was within five points and seemed to answer every Gator bucket late.
With Florida (14-9, 4-5 SEC) holding a 63-57 lead with 56 seconds to go, Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville) came up with a huge offensive rebound off a missed free throw. She was able to work the clock and eventually was fouled with 37.1 seconds to go. She missed those two free throws, but connected on two with 21.7 seconds remaining that made it a two-possession game. Jones then followed with two more from the line with 15.1 ticks on the clock to seal the victory.
“One of the things we talked about entering this game was that it was important to have ‘no composure’ moments,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “We did a pretty good job of holding to that. Jordan’s free throws were huge. She wanted the ball and that’s a sign of a confident free throw shooter. Lanita did a great job and the offensive rebound that she somehow ended up with put the nail in the coffin. There’s no question that Azania’s play today was the difference.”
Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) added 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting for the Gators, who hit 48.9 percent (23-47) from the floor overall, including a 6-of-13 effort from the three-point arc, as Bartley and Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville) also connected from deep. Bonds collected six rebounds to share team honors with Stewart, as Florida held a 37-27 advantage on the boards.
Mary Kathryn Govero scored a game-high 22 points, as she nailed 6-of-8 three-pointers for MSU, which converted 10-of-19 overall from long range. Porsha Porter finished with 18 points and a team-high seven rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs, who shot 38.6 percent overall and 28.1 percent in the second half when the Gators outscored their hosts 31-27.
MSU scored the first points of the second half and cut UF’s lead to one, 35-34, before Ndidi Madu hit a deep jumper and Azania Stewart ripped off the next five points and gave the Gators a 41-35 lead.
Porsha Porter came right back with a three-point play, before Stewart added another inside jumper. Mary Kathryn Govero nailed her fourth trey of the game and brought MSU within two, 43-41, with 16:15 to play.
Florida slowly extended its lead again with the next four points, as Brittany Shine added a bucket and Jennifer George converted 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
After Porter canned a jumper, Stewart followed her own miss and putback a four-footer, before Madu out-jumped everyone for an offensive rebound and hit the soft 5-footer that gave the Gators a 51-43 advantage with 7:35 on the clock.
Porter’s next two points came from the charity stripe with 7:07 remaining in the game, as did Jordan Jones’ points, as she earned her ninth double-figure scoring game of the season.
Govero stepped up with another trey and Diamber Johnson followed with a bucket inside the arc and cut UF’s lead to three, 53-50, with 5:41 remaining.
Deana Allen (Houma, La.) came off the bench and converted a pair of free throws, before Bartley nailed a huge three-pointer in front of the Gator bench and gave UF a 58-50 lead with 4:26 on the clock.
The teams traded scores for the next couple of minutes, before Johnson hit two free throws and had MSU within 63-57 with 56.2 seconds remaining.
Allen was then fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Bartley scrapped for the lose rebound and came away with it and was fouled. Bartley, however, missed both of her bonus tries and the Lady Bulldogs made the Gators pay, as Danielle Rector nailed a three-point from the top of the key and brought hope to the home fans with 28 seconds remaining as MSU trailed by just three.
Bartley redeemed herself, though, by converting two free throws on her next trip to the line with 21.7 seconds on the clock and gave Florida a 65-60 cushion.
MSU sailed on airball on its next offensive possession and was forced to foul Jones, who received the in-bounds pass. Jones calmly nailed both free throws with 15.1 seconds remaining to ice the victory and ended the game’s scoring.
This is the first of two regular-season meetings between the teams, the second scheduled for Sun., Feb. 20 in Gainesville.
UF also improved to 2-7 when playing a true road game this season, both victories coming in league action.
Fourteen of UF’s 23 games this year have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with nine being six-point differences.
Florida came out sizzling with its shot from the floor, as Jordan Jones and Jaterra Bonds nailed their first two three-point attempts, while Azania Stewart sank an inside jumper on a dish from Ndidi Madu and gave the Gators a quick 8-0 lead that forced MSU to call a timeout at the 16:27 mark.
Catina Bett got the first points for the Lady Bulldogs, but Jones nailed another from deep and Jennifer George’s short shot in the paint extended Florida’s lead to 11 points, 13-2.
MSU settled and marched off a 7-0 run and closed within four points, before Stewart scored the next four of the game and gave the Gators a 17-9 advantage.
Mary Kathryn Govero then hit the first of three first-half treys, sparking a 9-1 run with all MSU points coming from long range and tied the score at 18-all with 8:53 on the clock.
Stewart and Madu accounted for the next two field goals and started a 9-2 swing for the visitors, who jumped back out to a seven-point spread, 27-20, with 6:39 to go.
Govero nailed a bucket from inside the arc and the teams traded two-pointers for the next two and half minutes and UF maintained its seven-point lead with 2:12 on the clock.
The Lady Bulldogs took advantage of three consecutive Gator miscues and tallied the next six points of the period and closed within one, 34-33, with 16 seconds remaining. Stewart then halted the run and netted the final points of the half, taking a feed from Lanita Bartley and finishing, giving Florida a 36-33 halftime lead.
The Gators shot 55.6 percent in the first half, hitting 15-of-27 overall, including 4-of-6 from the three-point arc. Stewart collected 12 points, connecting on all six of her shots, while collecting a pair of steals. Jones added nine points, hitting 3-of-4 from long range.
Govero tallied 13 points, with a 3-of-3 from the arc for MSU, which converted 52 percent of its tries in the first 20 minutes, including 6-of-8 from long range.
Florida next plays host to Ole Miss on Thursday, Feb. 3 in the O’Connell Center, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be televised live statewide on FOX Sports Florida/Sun Sports which airs in Gainesville on COX channel 70 (770 HD). The radio broadcast can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5 and in Jacksonville on WXFJ-AM 930.