As much as Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler likes to talk about how her team plays balanced basketball, Thursday night wasn’t a balanced performance.
While multiple Gators made momentum-altering plays, it was junior Ronni Williams who carried Florida for the majority of the game.
In one of the best games of her career, she went for 20 points — one shy of her career high — and 15 rebounds.
Williams’ unusually productive individual effort, coupled with clutch plays from the rest of the team, led the No. 22 Gators (19-4, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) to an 83-81 win over the No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies (15-7, 5-4 SEC) on Thursday night in the O’Connell Center.
"Ronni Williams is one of the top-10 players in our league, and she can do that every night," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "If she can stay out of foul trouble, just think what she can doing 40 minutes."
Williams flashed her potential in her first game as a Gator nearly three years ago. In the 2013 season opener against Bethune-Cookman, she collected a team-high-tying 15 points and set her career-high mark for rebounds with 17.
But after fouling out with 2:37 to play on Thursday, it was up to the rest of the team to deliver.
And as they have for most of the season in the fourth quarter, the team came through.
In addition to Williams, three Gators finished in double figures.
And of the three of them, junior Simone Westbrook’s contributions were the most pivotal.
Westbrook, who has scored in double digits in her last three games, hit two buzzer-beating shots to give UF the momentum.
One came on a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, the second time she has connected on a quarter-ending three in as many games, and it gave Florida a 65-60 lead going into the final period.
She also hit a floater with 1:02 left and with one second on the shot clock, giving Florida its final points. Those points were the difference in the game.
"I think it's very exciting," Butler said of several players contributing to the win. "I'm sure it's not exciting for our opponents."
While Williams was at the center of Florida’s success, senior Courtney Walker was at the center of Texas A&M’s, scoring 31 points for the Aggies.
Butler said the Gators tried to adjust at halftime — at which point Walker already had 15 points.
"We obviously didn't do a very good job of adjusting to Walker. She's pretty amazing. Just wow," Butler said. "It'd have been fun to watch if I wasn't sitting on the other bench."
But despite Walker’s individual effort, the Aggies couldn’t finish.
Trailing by as many as eight with 5:11 left in the third quarter, Florida started clicking.
Within four minutes, UF had taken the lead and by the end of the quarter, it was up by five.
The game didn’t finish without drama, as the lead changed three times in the final quarter. Ultimately, Florida successfully defended a Texas A&M layup attempt at the buzzer to seal the win.
Even though the Gators are coming off wins over No. 12 Texas A&M and then-No. 12 Kentucky, the schedule only gets tougher.
Now in sole possession of second place in the SEC, UF will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, for a showdown with the first place, No 2. Gamecocks on Thursday.
"We have a little extra rest, but we'll get back after it on Sunday and try to win the battle of preparation," Butler said. "That's the first battlefront that we try to win on, and it's gonna be critical, and I think it's gonna be a lot of fun."