With No. 22 Florida trailing Alabama by four points with about six minutes to play, Carlie Needles dished the ball to Simone Westbrook.

Over the last 15 minutes, the Gators had watched their lead and their momentum disappear.

But with the game on the line, Westbrook gripped the ball, exhaled and watched as her three-point shot swished through the net.

Eleanna Christinaki knocked down a pair of free throws a minute later to give the Gators a 70-69 lead. From there, Florida outscored Alabama 10-3 to cap off an 80-72 victory in front of an announced crowd of 1,305.

"It’s turning out to be that that’s kind of Florida basketball this year," UF coach Amanda Butler said. "Do what you’ve got to do in the fourth quarter no matter how ugly it looks or no matter how wonderful it’s been."

The Gators (16-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) shot 54.2 percent from the field as a team, but Christinaki and Westbrook led the charge.

Christinaki — the freshman from Athens, Greece — scored a team-high 16 points, including a 6-of-7 mark from the free-throw line.

Westbrook — the junior guard known more for her aggressive nature on defense than her offensive prowess — put up 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, her first double-digit scoring effort in seven games. She was also one of six Florida players with at least six points against the Crimson Tide.

And while she finally found her groove on offense, Westbrook didn’t skip a beat on defense, bringing down six rebounds and stealing four balls in timely fashion.

Her final steal, which came with just under two minutes to go, came as Westbrook dove to the ground to scoop up the ball and was fouled by Alabama’s Karyla Middlebrook

"Those are the things our team really feeds off of," Butler said.

"The three’s great, no question, but a play where it’s just all-out, ‘I’m going to sacrifice my body for the team,’ those are the things that really get us fired up."

Florida cruised to a 46-31 lead at halftime behind a pair of scoring runs.

The first, a 15-4 outburst in the opening quarter that gave Florida an early edge.

The second, an 18-3 run late in the second quarter where six Florida players got on the scoreboard.

But as has been the norm as of late, the Gators fell flat in the third quarter.

Led by Hannah Cook’s 11 points, Alabama (13-6, 2-4 SEC) outscored Florida 30-15 in the frame to tie the game at 61-61, the fourth straight contest where the Gators were outscored in the third quarter.

"The long and short of it is whether it’s the first quarter, the third quarter or the fourth quarter, you’re going toe-to-toe with someone who wants to beat you really badly and someone who’s capable of doing it," Butler said.

Tack on 36 turnovers, which tie for the third-most committed in a game in program history, and the game easily could have rolled in Alabama’s favor down the stretch if not for a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter.

"We’ve got to control the ball, handle the ball," said junior Ronni Williams, who scored 13 points against Alabama.

"But our fight and how aggressive we play and our toughness is there."

Now, as they prepare to face Missouri on Saturday in their first road outing in almost two weeks, the Gators know their game needs to be cleaned up.

"To still be able to win and find a way to win in the face of that I think is pretty incredible and speaks to the spirit of this team," Butler said.

Contact Jordan McPherson [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @J_McPherson1126.

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