The Gator women’s basketball team (17-4, 5-3 SEC) earned a hard fought victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-12, 4-4 SEC) on Thursday night after beating them, 71-66 in overtime in Fayetteville.
Though Florida dominated the overall series between the two clubs (24-9) before this contest, the game was much more competitive than perhaps expected. Arkansas held the lead for most of the game, with Florida continually battling back in each period to stay within close range.
Gator guard Carla Batchelor anchored Florida’s offense early on with three baskets from beyond the arc en route to 11 points.
Florida head coach Amanda Butler says Batchelor’s contributions were crucial to them getting the victory.
“I felt Carla played with a lot of toughness. She played like a senior. When she got good looks, she knocked them down. When she got tired, she asked out. When she had opportunities to grab loose balls, she went for it with everything she had. Huge minutes for us.”
The Gators went into halftime trailing the Razorbacks by just one point after shooting just 35 percent from the field and trading baskets for most of the first half.
It was much of the same story at the beginning of the second half as Arkansas came out of halftime shooting 61 percent from the field in the third quarter. Florida faced its largest deficit of the game when the Razorbacks went up by 10 with five minutes left in the period.
However, the Gators mounted a furious comeback courtesy of a collective team effort on the offensive side of the ball. Six different Gators put the ball in the bucket to erase the deficit and put Florida in a position to enter the fourth all tied up with Arkansas.
Despite once again finding themselves trailing 59-57 in the final moments of the game, it was ultimately Gator guard Simone Westbrook who shot the game-tying floater that would send both clubs into overtime.
Florida eventually outscored the Razorbacks 12-7 and permanently took the lead after guard Eleanna Christinaki converted a layup in the paint. Christinaki finished with 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Guards Carlie Needles and Cassie Peoples sealed the win for Florida after making a combined four free throws to extend their lead in the last seconds of the game.
Butler says they showed great resilience throughout the game.
“(We played) complete, team basketball in the second half. We were disappointed with the way we played the first half. You’ve got to give Arkansas credit for that. But to be able to come out and mount that type of effort in the second half, to win an overtime game on someone else’s home floor is very hard to do. I was really proud we executed with such precision in critical moments.”
The Gators will return home to face Kentucky this Sunday at the O’Connell Center. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m.