Defense Falters as Florida Women’s Basketball Falls at Auburn, 73-56

Auburn, AL - Auburn used a 22-9 run in the final 6:43 of the game and
blew open a close game to post a 73-56 decision against Florida Thursday evening at the new Auburn Arena.

The Gators held a 33-28 halftime lead, but the Tigers roared out of the
locker room and started the second half scoring the first four points
and whittled the deficit to one. Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England)
and Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) followed with buckets and retuned the
Gator advantage to five, 37-32.

Auburn, however, tallied six consecutive points and sparked a 13-2 run
and assumed a six-point lead with 11:15 to go in the game.

Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.), who finished with a team-high 10
points, scored the lone field goal during the stretch, as Stewart hit an
inside jumper to stop the spree.

The teams then traded scores for the next seven opportunities, as the
Gators could get no close than four points, including 51-47 with 7:19

That’s when the Tigers (9-6, 2-0 SEC) went on their game-ending run to
earn their fifth consecutive victory and deny Florida (11-5, 1-1 SEC)
its first true road win in five tries.

Auburn also won the rebounding battle, 34-25, handing the Gators their
worse deficit margin this year, including a seven rebound differential
in the deciding second half, when the Tigers shot 57.7 percent and made 16 of their 24 trips to the free throw line. AU shot 50 percent overall during the game, the best by a UF opponent this season.

Florida shot 41.5 percent overall (22-53), including 5-of-11 from the
three-point arc, but found their way to the free throw line only 10
times, all in the first 20 minutes of play.

“They won the paint, there’s not any question,” UF head coach Amanda
Butler said. “They dominated us on the boards, did a great job of
getting to the rim and posting us up and scoring. It’s really
disappointing because that was our emphasis. We didn’t come in with the determination and fight that it’s going to take to win on the road in
this league. I thought we played a real soft game. When we’re at our
best, we’re playing with toughness and we didn’t bring that toughness

Stewart, who was plagued with foul trouble and whistled for her fourth
with 10 minutes remaining, pulled down a team-high five rebounds along
with seven points in 19 minutes of action.

Nine of the 10 Gators who played scored during the game.

Chantel Hilliard scored a career and game-high 17 points for Auburn,
leading four Tigers in double-figure scoring.

Ndidi Madu (Antioch, Tenn.) opened the game’s scoring 12 seconds after the initial ball went into the air, but Auburn sharp-shooter Blanche
Alverson came back with a three-pointer and Parrisha Simmons followed
with a pair of free throws and gave the Tigers the early 5-2 lead.

Jones nailed a trey for the Gators to even things up, but Alli Smalley
hit a bucket and Alverson went deep again to give Auburn a 10-5
advantage with 16:38 remaining in the opening half.

Florida settled after a pair of turnovers and marched off a 12-4 run,
with scoring from Deana Allen, Madu, Deaundra Young, Lanita Bartley and Jaterra Bonds and took a 17-14 lead with 9:21 remaining, as Bonds capped the spree with a three-pointer en route to a team-best seven first-half points.

The teams traded buckets for the next few minutes before Auburn came
right back with two consecutive scores and held a 20-19 edge with 5:17
on the clock.

That started a trend of six lead changes and one tied score over the
next three minutes.

With Auburn holding a 28-27 advantage and 2:39 on the clock, Bonds hit two free throws, Azania Stewart converted a three-point play and Bartley capped the first-half scoring with one from the charity stripe and gave Florida a Florida continues its two-game Southeastern Conference road tip on Sunday, January 9, when the team travels to Columbia, S.C., and plays South Carolina. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET..

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