Gators Outlast Hurricanes in Overtime Thriller, 76-73

It wasn’t always sunshine in Coral Gables for Florida women’s basketball, but the Gators showed their toughness on the road at Miami on Sunday evening, defeating the Hurricanes, who are receiving votes in the AP poll, 76-73 in overtime.
The Gators (10-1, 0-0 SEC) trailed by six entering the final 10 minutes of play, but embraced the challenge and trimmed the lead to four following a KK Deans three-pointer at the 8:41 mark. Deans continued to make her presence felt in the game, knocking down two free throws two minutes later to bring UF back within four, 56-52.
With the lead back at six following a Haley Cavinder jumper, Nina Rickards converted back-to-back jumpers to make it just a two-point game with 4:08 remaining. The Rickards show continued, scoring 10-straight points by herself to will the Orange & Blue within one with 1:37 left in the game. Deans then, with 38 seconds left, put the Gators in front with a step-back jumper from the left wing, 64-63.
On the next possession, Miami (7-4, 0-0 ACC) regained the lead thanks to a head-down drive from Ja’Leah Williams with just 27.5 seconds remaining. The back-and-forth battle continued, with Rickards tying the game at the free throw line with the clock showing 12.5 seconds. The Orange & Blue got the defensive stop they needed on the other end, forcing overtime for the second time this season.
Both squads did a majority of their damage in overtime at the free throw line, trading the lead with each other through the 3:04 mark when Rickards slashed through the lane for a layup and first field goal of the period. In keeping with the theme, the Hurricanes answered with a layup of their own at the other end, leading 71-70 with under two remaining. The final lead change of the game came with 44.2 seconds left when Deans drained two at the line to give UF the 74-73 lead, helping the Gators to a 76-73 victory. The Gators shot an impressive 9-of-10 (90%) from the line in overtime to secure the win.
The gutsy performance featured no shortage of high-pressure situations, which included 12 lead changes, and the Gators rose to the occasion, especially at the free throw line where they ended 19-of-25 (76%) for the game. Rickards and Deans led the offensive effort for UF, recording 23 and 21 points, respectively. Leilani Correa also scored in double-figures, ending with 14.
As a team, UF shot 26-of-61 (42.6%) from the field, while Miami (7-4, 0-0 ACC) ended their evening shooting 25-of-64 (39.1%) and 8-of-25 (32%) from three. Both teams battled to a stalemate on the glass, each pulling down 41 rebounds. Rickards tallied seven for the Gators while Alberte Rimdal added six of her own.
Defensively, the Orange & Blue forced 15 turnovers that resulted in five steals. It was again Rickards leading the charge with two steals while the Gators ended with 17 points off of turnovers. Florida also held a crucial 17-5 advantage in fast break points.
Tatyana Wyche had a career-night on the defensive end, recording three of the team’s seven blocks over the course of the evening.
Deans got the Gators going early on, scoring the first five points of the game for the Orange & Blue to give the visitors an early 5-0 cushion. Both offenses began to wake up with just under 7:30 on the clock, exchanging punches to the media timeout where Florida boasted a 12-9 lead, paced by eight points from Deans.
The Hurricanes knotted the game at 12 with 3:33 on the clock, but Faith Dut helped the Gators reclaim the lead with a jumper from the free throw line as the shot clock expired. A flurry of buckets from Miami late in the first helped the Hurricanes open up a five-point advantage before Rickards beat the buzzer to pull within three, 20-17, at the end of one. Both squads had no trouble on the offensive end in the opening 10 minutes with Florida shooting 54% from the field and Miami ending at 53%.
Miami opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run, extending their lead to 29-17 before Rimdal knocked down a three on the right wing with 6:53 on the clock to end the outburst. The Wyche twins went to work on the next possession, as Tatyana Wyche found Taliyah Wyche in the post to get the Gators back within seven at 29-22.
Correa, continuing to make a difference off the bench, intercepted a bad pass near midcourt and took it all the way to the hoop and then knocked down a corner triple at the 2:46 mark to bring UF to within two. The Hurricanes held on to take a 30-27 lead into the break, however. A key to the successful comeback for the Orange & Blue, Miami was held without a field goal for the last 7:12 of the second frame.
Facing a 10-point deficit with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter, the Gators got a much-needed boost by attacking the paint. Taliyah Wyche tracked down an offensive board and converted a put-back, followed by Rickards getting into the lane for a layup, to make it 44-38 with just over 2:30 left in the period. The Hurricanes pushed their lead back to nine and that’s when Correa took over for the Gators. The senior put together a five-point spurt of her own, clipping the Hurricane lead to just four, but Miami headed into the last 10 minutes with a 49-43 buffer.  
Up Next
The Gators return home next Sunday, Dec. 18, when they welcome UNC Greensboro for a 2 p.m. ET matchup in Exactech Arena. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On sharing the celebration with her team…
“It was great, we’ve got a lot of selfless players that are easy to coach. I thought that some people who had been getting a lot of minutes weren’t able to play quite as many tonight, but it was us versus them and I’m really proud of who we are and who we are when we’re us.”
On Nina Rickards’ performance…
She’s always been a star. Nina is okay with whatever role she needs to play for us to win and that makes her special. Faith is the same way. It makes for a very special team when you have seniors who have built this program, who say ‘whenever my number is called, I’m going to be ready.’ She was excellent tonight. I thought she took big shots in big-time moments, she knew she had the mismatch and if she’s going to draw their third-best defender, then that’s what we expect from her and we talked about that in our game plan. We weren’t sure how they were going to match us, but whoever drew their third-best defender that’s where we were going to go. It just happened to be one of our best scorers.”
On the crowd that made their way to Miami…
I’m ecstatic that we had the game we did, in front of that crowd we had. Gator Nation was down here in Miami in full effect tonight and it was really fun.”
On what this win means…
“When we lost to Florida State, we took that game as a game to improve from. We’ve done that every game. We’ve done that every week. We had three days to prepare for this game and we really haven’t had the opportunity to practice in about four weeks because of our game schedule. I thought we stuck to our game plan, we were really locked in and I thought we did a great job. They (Miami) outrebounded their opponents by 15 when they win, and another big stat for us is the free throws. Their opponents get six-to-10 rebounds a game when Miami wins, so for us to get to the line 25 times was big for us and it was part of the strategy. We did really well.”
– The Gators now boast a 29-14 series lead over the Hurricanes.
– The victory snaps a two-game losing skid to Miami in the all-time series.
– The Gators move to 2-0 in overtime games this season and have won their last three overtime games as a program.
– The 10-1 start from the Orange & Blue is the best since opening 12-1 during the 2015-16 campaign.
– Florida women’s basketball now boasts 798 victories as a program, just two away from becoming the 13th SEC school to win 800 games.
– The Gators now boast an eight-game winning streak, the longest since 2015-16 campaign when they won 12-consecutive from Nov. 16-Dec. 30, 2015.  
– KK Deans continues to close-in on her 1,000th career point, currently sitting at 938.