Senior forward Ronni Williams’s 31 points and supporting performances from fellow senior Tyshara Fleming and Brooke Copeland helped the Gator women’s basketball team end the regular season on a high note, taking down Georgia 65-58 on senior night. The win marks only the fourth time in school history that Florida has swept the season series against Georgia. Florida ends the regular season with a 14-15 record, and 5-11 in the SEC. The loss drops Georgia to 15-14, and 7-9 in conference play.
— O'Connell Center (@OConnellCTR) February 26, 2017
On an emotional day that culminated with the senior day festivities after the game, it was the seniors who had the biggest impact for Florida. Williams led all scorers, scoring 19 of her 31 points in the second half. After the game, Williams said the team did a good job of staying level-headed despite the emotions of it being senior night. She also made history in the fourth quarter after hauling in her third rebound of the game, marking the 800th of her career.
Williams has just 3 rebounds, but that last one was the 800th of her career!
Just 9th Gator w/ 1,400+ pts, 800 rebs!
— Gators WBasketball (@GatorsWBK) February 26, 2017
Fleming flirted with a double-double, putting up eight points and nine rebounds. She had a few key rebounds on both ends of the floor down the stretch, and she knocked down the free throws that gave the Gators the lead for good in the fourth quarter. Copeland was the only other Gator to score in double digits, scoring 12 points that included three three-pointers. Florida went on three big runs during the game before their final one in the fourth quarter, and they were all started by timely Copeland three’s.
Pachis Roberts ended the day as Georgia’s leading scorer with 18 points. Mackenzie Engram joined her in double figures with 13 points and five rebounds. The rest of Georgia’s team combined to shoot just 9-for-35 from the field as they really offensively struggled in the second half.
Florida only led for 6:06 of game time, but outscored Georgia by ten points in the paint, and their free-throw advantage helped them take the lead in the fourth quarter. They took 14 more shots than the Lady Dawgs at the charity stripe, knocking down 19 of their 26 attempts.
It was a back-and-forth first half with six ties and four lead changes, as Georgia entered half-time with a 30-26 lead.
They Lady Dawgs started on the front foot, holding a 7-2 lead after the first five and a half minutes of play.
Florida started to find their rhythm with 3:46 left to go in the first quarter. They went on a 12-4 run spanning over six minutes. It was sparked by a three-pointer each from Copeland and Dyandria Anderson and was continued by Williams field goals. The score at this point was 18-15 Florida.
From that point, the two teams continued to trade baskets, before Georgia went on a 6-0 run to end the half. Roberts paced Georgia with 10 points in the first half, while Williams led all scorers with 12 of Florida’s 26 first half points.
halftime stats pic.twitter.com/2cIC8Ekr3t
— Gators WBasketball (@GatorsWBK) February 26, 2017
Florida head coach Amanda Butler called a timeout just 1:07 into the half after Georgia continued the momentum from the first half with two quick baskets down low to make it a 10-0 run that spanned either side of half-time.
The timeout seemed to have worked. After a Shanea Ambrister three-pointer gave Georgia a 39-30 lead, the Gators closed the third quarter on 13-6 run. Again, it was a Copeland three that sparked the run to make it a two-point game going into the fourth quarter. Copeland said that she wasn’t thinking about shooting when she did, which helped her make more shots, and gave credit to Anderson for finding her at the key moments of the game.
Florida also started to get more aggressive in terms of driving to the basket. Six of the 13 points came from the free throw line and another four came from inside the paint, aided by a couple of big offensive rebounds from Fleming.
The fourth quarter showed what Butler has been preaching about her team this season, that the offense will come, and they can win if they focus defensively.
And focus defensively they did.
Florida clamped down in the final frame, holding Georgia to just 23.5 percent shooting from the field. For the half, they limited the Lady Dawgs to just over 30 percent shooting, including holding them to just 2-for-9 from beyond the arc in the half. Butler said it was the intangibles from the seniors that helped the Gators lock down defensively.
The Gators closed the game on a 13-6 run after the game was tied at 52 with just 4:01 to go.
— Jonathan Acosta (@jonacosta_10) February 26, 2017
Of Florida’s 21 made free throws during the game, they made 17 in the second half, and nine of them during the final run, continuing their increased aggressiveness in the second half. Williams ended with the last three points for Florida, with all of them from the free-throw line, putting her over the 30 point mark for the fourth time this season. Williams averaged 18.7 points per game during the regular season, becoming the first player in program history to lead the SEC in scoring for a season.
Florida’s attention will now turn to the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, which gets underway on Wednesday.