Gators Rally for Regular-Season Finale Win vs. Auburn

A balanced scoring effort and yet another strong performance on the offensive glass led the Florida women’s basketball team to a 56-49 win over Auburn Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The victory was not only a fitting way for the Gator’s five seniors to cap their home career, but it clinched byes for the first two rounds of the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Senior guards January Miller and Cassie Peoples led all Gators scorers with 11 points apiece, while sophomore center Haley Lorenzen also reached double figures with 10 points. Junior small forward Ronni Williams collected a game-high 13 rebounds, with 10 of those boards coming on the defensive end of the floor.

As a team, Florida shot just 25.5 percent, its lowest shooting percentage in a victory in program history. The club’s 13 field goals allowed also matched the third-lowest total in school history. The Gators were stingy on the defensive end of the floor, however, holding Auburn below 40 percent from the field and forcing the Tigers into 26 turnovers.

The Gators also grabbed 23 offensive rebounds, which were converted into 24 second-chance points.

How It Happened

After leading by six points at the end of the first quarter, Florida found itself trailing by as many as five points for the majority of the second quarter and the entire third frame.

A furious five-point spurt by the Gators, emphatically capped by Ronni Williams’ three-point play, knotted the game up at 43-43 with exactly five minutes left in regulation.

Following a forced turnover, Haley Lorenzen drew a foul and headed to the charity stripe, where she gave the Gators their first lead since the 6:12 mark of the second quarter. Two more freebies from Lorenzen would later extend the lead to four points.

Though Auburn battled back, its comeback effort was stymied with 42 seconds remaining, as Westbrook nabbed a steal at half court and went on to split a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game.

The Gators closed the game out with a total of seven made free throws from Simone Westbrook and Peoples, who hit 8-of-8 in the game – in the final 42 seconds of play.

Florida vs. Auburn Series History

  • Florida snapped its two-game losing streak against the Tigers, improving its all-time series record to 21-34, including an 11-10 mark at home.
  • This is the first time Florida has scored fewer than 60 points in a win over Auburn.
  • Dating back to the 2011-12 season, the Gators have won six of the last eight meetings against Auburn.

Gator Starters

  • Eleanna Christinaki, Haley Lorenzen, January Miller, Simone Westbrook, Ronni Williams (1-0)
  • Ninth different starting lineup this season.

 Numbers of Note

  • Florida shot just 25.5 percent, its lowest shooting percentage in a victory in program history. The Gators shot 2-13 (15.4%) in the second quarter, 4-16 (25%) in the third quarter and 2-7 (28.6%) in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Tigers, 20-11.
  • Florida’s largest lead of seven points came with three seconds remaining in the game.
  • Auburn led by as many as five points with 2:17 remaining in the second quarter.
  • Florida scored 20 points in the fourth quarter on just 2-of-7 shooting.
  • For the eighth time this season, the Gators collected 20-plus offensive rebounds in a game.
  • Florida improved to 7-5 after trailing at halftime.
  • Sunday’s attendance of 4,019 is the 12th-largest crowd in program history, as well as the largest since Jan. 14, 2010 against Tennessee (4,103).

 Quotes from the Court

Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler

Opening Statement…

“That was absolutely a representation of how this team has played all season long: for each other and for the right reasons. It’s also fired up to represent the University of Florida, with a really keen sense of what they were playing for and who they represent. I think our seniors absolutely got what they deserved. It is exciting to go into the (SEC) tournament with that momentum and that extra day of rest. It was a big step forward for our program.”

On the difference between the last game against Auburn…

“When we played at Auburn, we just weren’t us, from a personality standpoint. Our energy was not good. Our huddles were not tight. We were very disjointed and not really working together as a unit, and that is the strength of this team. We also didn’t play very good defense and I think those two are connected. So we went into tonight knowing it was going to be a battle, with a tremendous amount of respect for Auburn and what they have been able to do this season. They understand how important it was for us to be us in those regards.”

On finding the spark to swing the momentum in the game…

“We have a way of doing things that we have tried to embody in everything we do. We try to fight to do the right thing. We were doing some right things but we just couldn’t get over the hump. We wouldn’t get both free throws. We would get the layup, but not hit (the free throw). We didn’t let any of those things deter our spirit. We just kept coming back, and I think it showed a great deal of maturity and a very resilient spirit.”

Florida Senior Guard January Miller

On her rebounding effort tonight… “I knew it was my last time playing here, in the O’Dome, so I wanted to leave on a high note.”

 Florida Redshirt Senior Guard Carlie Needles

On her role as a senior while sitting out tonight due to a concussion… “My role sitting on the bench was to be a vocal leader, keep those positive vibes, yell out on defense, and echo Coach Butler. It’s obviously not where I necessarily wanted to be, but I knew the team could get it done without me. They worked really hard this week and they did an incredible job out there today.”

 Florida Redshirt Senior Guard Cassie Peoples

On the lack of offense and trailing most of the game… “The biggest thing we talked about was making sure we continued to put out a good defensive effort and continued to get stops. It wasn’t the greatest offensive game today, but what really separated us and helped us win was our defense.”

Auburn Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy

Opening Statement…

“We gave up 23 offensive rebounds today. Shot six for 16 from the free throw line. We hurt ourselves with those numbers. Florida was just going after the ball and they were doing a better job at boxing out than we were. A few of our starters only had one defensive rebound. You can’t win a game when you put up numbers like that.

“We gave up too many turnovers in this one too—26 total. Our point guards alone gave up 12. It was just a bad game. As much as we stayed in this one and kept fighting, we weren’t able to hang in there. We’ve just got to keep working hard and improve. We can only practice so much, but, at the end of the day, we need to get better and keep fighting.”

Postgame Links

Up Next for the Gators

  • All 14 teams from the Southeastern Conference will compete in the 2016 SEC Tournament that gets underway Wednesday, March 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Coach Amanda Butler on Twitter