ATHENS, GA- Deana Allen (Houma, La.) had the best night of her young Florida career, but Georgia ruined the day as the Lady Bulldogs rallied for an improbable 70-64 win at Stegeman Coliseum in front of 4,995.
Florida led by 16 points with 14:17 remaining in the game, but the Lady Bulldogs dug deep and began their comeback.
From that point forward, Georgia sank six three-pointers and Florida turned the ball over nine times that resulted in 16 Lady Bulldog points.
Toward the start of at final 14:17, the Gators held a 56-44 lead when Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) nailed her third three-pointer of the game. Georgia ripped off an ensuing 13-0 run and took a 57-56 lead with 4:31 remaining.
Lanita Bartley’s (Jacksonville, Fla.) two free throws halted the 13-point spree and swung the lead back in UF’s favor, but Jasmine James stepped up with a trey and had the host back on top, 60-58.
Jaterra Bonds (Gainesville, Fla.) answered with a driving layup and tied the score at 60 with 2:54 remaining.
Florida’s defense held, but its offense turned the ball over again and Georgia made the Gators pay as Meredith Mitchell nailed a three-pointer with 1:59 on the clock and gave the Dawgs a 63-60 lead.
Again the Gators turned the ball over before attempting a shot and James again nailed a three-pointer for a six-point advantage.
Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) dropped in a tough inside bucket and had the Gators within four, 66-52, with 62 seconds left.
After one free throw from James, Bonds hit another bucket and brought Florida within three points with 35 seconds remaining.
Georgia (14-3, 4-0 SEC) was then able to seal the win at the free throw line, where it scored its final four points.
Allen notched the first double-double of her career with 14 points and 13 rebounds and helped Florida (12-7, 2-3 SEC) win the rebounding battle, 47-31. The Gators even shot a steady 44.8 percent from the floor during the game, including 5-of-11 three-pointers, but their undoing came with their miscues, as their 23 turnovers resulted in 23 Georgia Points.
Jones finished with 13 points and Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) added 11 points with a pair of blocks, the first one being the 100th of her career as she became the seventh Gator in program history to swat as many.
We did a great job of defensive rebounding in the first half, but we fully expected Georgia to have an answer to that in the second half,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “There were some tough plays down the stretch, we didn’t take care of the ball and some things didn’t go our way that were out of our control. Our thought our kids fought hard and I was really proud of our effort. This was a tough environment.
“They hit some big threes and that was something that they didn’t do in the first half,” Butler continued. “We didn’t do a great job of getting out on their shooters. They have some great players and we expected them to step up. We didn’t do a good job of knowing our personnel.
“We won the ball game for the first 35 minutes and we allowed the things that we don’t have control of to be a factor and you can’t do that,” Butler finished.
James scored 14 of her game-high 18 points during the final 14:28 of the game, while Mitchell added nine of her 15 in that final stretch, when Georgia converted 13-of-26 from the field, including 5-of-9 three-pointers.
Overall, Georgia shot 39.7 percent from the floor and outscored Florida 46-27 in the second half.
Lanita Bartley came off the bench for the first time this season, as Florida used its seventh different starting-five with Jaterra Bonds, Deana Allen, Azania Stewart, Ndidi Madu and Jordan Jones.
Florida began the second half on a 5-2 run and extended its 37-24 halftime lead to 16 points after two free throws from Allen.
Georgia began chipping away at the Gator lead, dropping it to 11 with 15:45 on the clock.
The Azania Stewart hit a short jumper and Jordan Jones connected on a three-pointer after a mad scramble for a loose ball and Florida reclaimed a 16-point advantage, 49-33, with 14:17 remaining.
Georgia then staged an 8-2 run over the next three minutes and cut its deficit to nine, 51-42, with 11:17 to play.
Florida opened the game with great intensity and focus, hitting four of their first eight shots, including 2-of-3 from the three-point arc to take an 11-5 lead. The Gators dominated the boards during those first four minutes, 8-1, with four coming on the offensive end that resulted in five second-chance points.
The Gators got scoring from Jaterra Bonds, Azania Stewart, Ndidi Madu and Jordan Jones, while Deana Allen collected a trio of boards during the opening minutes.
Stewart also became the seventh Gator in program history to block 100 shots in a career, as she swatted Jasmine Hassell’s shot with 16:21 on the clock, as UF’s defense continued to frustrate the Lady Bulldogs.
Georgia answered with buckets a couple of times and cut UF’s lead to three points and later to four, 19-15, with 11:59 remaining in the first half.
That’s when the Gators marched off six consecutive points during the next four-plus minutes with scoring from Brittany Shine, Lily Svete and Stewart and took a 25-15 lead with 7:35 to play.
Georgia returned with the next four points of the game and the teams traded scores for the next few minutes with Florida holding a 31-24 lead with 2:29 remaining until halftime.
Stewart put back an offensive rebound and Allen followed with another bucket. She then banked in an offensive rebound at the buzzer and gave Florida a 37-24 halftime lead.
In all, eight different Gators connected on a field goal in the first 20 minutes, paced by Allen and Stewart, both of whom tallied nine points. Allen also collected eight rebounds, tying her career-best for an entire game.
Georgia struggled with its shot during the first half, hitting just 28.6 percent (10-35) overall and missed both three-point attempts.
Florida committed 12 turnovers during the first stanza, but made up for it by hitting 48.5 percent from the floor, including 3-of-8 three-pointers and collecting 13 of its 28 rebounds on the offensive end.