Florida guard Kenza Salgues (6) and her team reacts to the SEC Tournament win Thursday against Vanderbilt at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC. [Spartanburg Herald-Journal]

Florida Advances To SEC Tournament Quarterfinals

The Florida women’s basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament with a 62-59 win against six-seeded Vanderbilt in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday.

First Half

Aliyah Matharu, who finished with a career-high 35 points, began the scoring for the 11 seed Gators (16-14) with 11 of Florida’s 17 points in the first quarter. She scored these points in the first six minutes of the game before committing two fouls. Matharu was then put on the bench until the beginning of the second.

Vanderbilt (22-9) was able to pull back and take a 14-13 lead after a 7-0 run. Florida was late to rotate in transition, allowing Vanderbilt to capitalize on fast breaks toward the end of the quarter.

Both teams combined for 13 turnovers in the first 10n, with Florida scoring nine points off the mistakes. After a tight quarter, Florida was up 17-14 heading into the second.

Zippy Broughton, along with the other Florida guards were able to drive to the basket with an open lane due to the threat of Leilani Correa waiting for the ball on the other side of the paint.

The second 10 presented multiple runs for both teams. Vanderbilt outshot the Gators and forced turnovers, while completing an 8-0 run toward the beginning of the quarter. Florida hit a slump when it did not make a shot for more than five minutes. 

This was until Florida took over once again. Matharu broke the drought with a 3 and a fast-break layup to begin a 12-0 run for the Gators. Florida continued to dominate the paint, outscoring Vanderbilt by seven in the second. 

The Gators were up 10 (32-22) heading into halftime.

Florida Prevails

Despite being outscored in the final two quarters, the Gators continued to produce enough offense to secure the win.

Matharu scored her 35 points on 14-of-25 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. Florida shot decently the entire game by totaling an almost 42% FG percentage, while knocking down clutch 3s.

Vanderbilt turned on the jets in the final three minutes of the game, pulling back within one. Khamil Pierre stole a pass on Florida’s inbounds, making the score 60-59 with 28.5 seconds to go. This was part of an 11-2 run for the Commodores in the fourth.

The Gators hit a few late free throws to ice the win. This is the first time Florida has won two games in the SEC tournament since 1997.

The Quarterfinals

Florida will look for revenge against the No.3 seed Ole Miss (22-7) at about at 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network) Friday in the tourney quarterfinal. The Rebels beat Florida earlier in the season after an overtime battle in Gainesville.

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