Florida rallies for win at Alabama

Trailing by 13 points with 10:17 remaining, Florida used a 21-4 run to erase the deficit and earn a 67-61 victory against Alabama at historic Foster Auditorium on Sunday afternoon.

Sophomore Kayla Lewis (Decatur, Ga.) scored 15 points with 11 rebounds to post the third double-double of her career, while junior Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the second half, as the Gators (16-12, 5-9) halted their three-game skid and collected their first win in Tuscaloosa since Feb. 5, 2009, when the Gators claimed the 92-71 victory in Coleman Coliseum.

Redshirt-junior Lily Svete (Granger, Ind.) scored all of her 11 points in the first half, when she drilled three three-pointers, while freshman Sydney Moss (Union, Ky.) distributed a career-high-tying nine assists with six rebounds and four points. With her fourth assist of the game, Moss dished her 100th assist this season, just the 18th time in program history a Gator has topped the milestone in a year and the first time since 2010-11 when Lanita Bartley had 119.

“We showed a tremendous amount of fight and I think this is a great sign of this team growing and maturing and playing the way that we should play in the face of adversity,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “We couldn’t get ourselves to the free throw line as much as we thought we would be able to, and couldn’t get the ball into the block as cleanly as we thought we’d be able to. They wouldn’t go away.

“Our players just kept fighting and finding ways to make a difference,” Butler continued. “They handled the challenges that their coaches issued to them and stepped up and made plays in critical moments. I thought our team energy and team chemistry was fantastic.”

Alabama scored the first eight points of the second half, erased Florida’s one-point halftime lead and took a 39-32 lead.

Vicky McIntyre became the ninth of nine Gators who dressed for the game to score, as she halted the run with a short jumper inside.

The teams traded buckets for the next couple of minutes before the Tide ripped off eight consecutive points and took a 51-38 lead with 11:16 remaining.

Florida hit just 2-of-15 during those the first 10:52 of the second half and had committed four more turnovers that brought their total to 18, as Alabama converted into 20 points.

After the teams traded buckets, the Gators started their rally as they ripped off a 21-4 run and took a 61-57 lead with 4:07 remaining.

Bonds began the game-changing run by nailing her first three-pointer since the February 3rd home game against Alabama. Christin Mercer then converted consecutive buckets and Lewis hit a jumper inside to cap a 9-0 run.

The teams exchange scored for the next two minutes and with the Gators trailing by six points, 57-51, Lewis went to work again as she banked in a jumper from the free throw line.

Jennifer George, who blocked a shot in the first half for the 173 rd of her career that moved her pass DeLisha Milton for fourth in program history, hit a bucket inside on a great pass from Moss and Lewis added an eight-foot jumper off an in-bounds play. Moss then connected on a six-footer in the paint, before Lewis capped a 10-0 march with a short shot inside that gave Florida a 61-47 lead with 4:10 on the clock.

Kaneisha Horn stopped the run with a bucket, but George came right back with a jumper inside and Bonds hit another driving layup and Florida’s lead swelled back to six points with 1:20 remaining.

Meghan Perkins then scored two of her 14 points the Alabama (12-15, 2-12 SEC), which dropped its eighth straight game.

Myers, who finished with 15 points, launched a three-pointer that was off the mark and Bonds corralled the miss and was fouled. She went the line and hit both ends of a one-plus-one and sealed the victory.

“We had some players who we had been waiting on early in the game to come alive, that came alive and Sydney Moss was one of those players, Kayla Lewis was one of those players,” Butler praised. “There were some spots where it made it difficult for her to play defense because of her size. We had players who subbed in like Lily and January (Miller), who made a difference defensively.”

Alabama converted 5-of-14 three-pointers in the first half, but missed all 11 attempts in the second, as Florida hit 44.1 percernt overall from the floor during the final 20 minutes after making just 2-of-15 through the first 10 minutes of the frame.

The Gators turned the focus to rebounding, as they held a 48-37 edge by the end of the game after holding just a 22-21 lead in the first half.

The Gators scored the first six points of the game, as Christin Mercer, Jennifer George and Lily Svete each hit field goals in the opening 1:55.

A different Gator connected on each of UF’s first six field goals and Florida was able to counter each Alabama point and managed to push its lead to as many as eight points, 17-10, after back-to-back three-pointers from Carlie Needles.

The Crimson Tide then marched off a 7-0 spurt and tied the game after Shafontaye Myers drilled her second of three three-pointers during the first half that forced Florida to call a timeout with 9:01 remaining in the opening period.

Junior Jaterra Bonds immediately responded with a pair of driving layups and Kayla Lewis added a short shot in the paint and took the Gators to a six-point lead, 23-17.

Alabama countered with its second big push, using a 12-3 run and took a 29-26 lead with 3:49 remaining. Svete’s three-pointer was the lone Gator score during the march, but that bucket helped the Gator junior in the closing two minutes, as she halted Alabama’s eight-point run at the end of the spurt with another trey at the 2:01 mark and followed with another from the left side 20 seconds later and gave Florida a 32-29 lead.

Myers finished the first half scoring with her fifth field goal of the period, as she totaled 13 points during the first 20 minutes.

Svete led Florida with 11 points, as eight of the nine Gators who dressed for the game scored during the first half.

The Gators committed 14 turnovers, but hit 13-of-31 from the floor, including 6-of-13 from the arc.

The Gators return to action on Thursday, when they play host to Arkansas it their final regular-season home game. Tip-off from the O’Connell Center is set for 7 p.m.

Jennifer George, UF’s lone senior, will be honored in a postgame ceremony.

Courtesy of UF Communications