With 10.5 seconds left in Thursday night’s game against Vanderbilt, UF sophomore Dyandria Anderson went up for a defensive rebound.
It didn’t matter if she came down with it. The Gators were already up by double figures, so there was nothing more than pride at stake.
But pride turned out to be enough of a reason to fight for the ball, and Anderson forced a jump ball that went Florida’s way.
The No. 22 Gators (20-6, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) then ran out the clock and defeated Vanderbilt 79-67 in the O’Connell Center.
And while Anderson’s forced jump ball didn’t change the outcome of the game, it represented exactly what did: Florida’s effort.
"I love the way we attacked," head coach Amanda Butler said after the game.
"They were being accountable for when we had letdowns, and I think it’s a reflection of great leadership."
The game started as well as it could have for Florida.
Redshirt senior sharpshooter Carlie Needles hit a three, junior Simone Westbrook followed it up with a three of her own and the Gators were off to a promising 6-0 start.
Eventually, UF’s lead ballooned to as much as 11 in the first quarter. But at that point, it quickly began to fade.
With one bucket at the beginning of the second quarter, Vanderbilt (15-11, 4-9 SEC) tied the game. Another immediately followed, and suddenly Vandy had its first lead.
"Vanderbilt’s pattern is very, very clear," Butler said. "They’ve been down, a lot, and they come right back at you."
But trailing for the first time seemed to be just the prod Florida needed to get going again. For the rest of the first half, the Gators and Commodores traded baskets.
And at the half, Florida carried a slim 42-40 lead.
In the second half, while Florida’s depth helped by keeping the starters fresh, it was mainly the starters who did the heavy lifting.
Five Gators — all starters — found themselves in double figures, with freshman Eleanna Christinaki leading the way with a career-high 22 points and junior Ronni Williams notching a double-double. Haley Lorenzen added 12 points, while Simone Westbrook and Carlie Needles scored 10 points apiece.
Westbrook, Christinaki and Lorenzen were particularly influential in the win aside from the stat sheet, though, making both clutch and effort plays look easy.
With 8:32 left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook made a wide-open three from NBA range. The ball ripped through the net, the crowd of 1,439 in the O’Connell Center went into a frenzy and the Gators had their biggest lead since the first quarter.
Christinaki’s specialty, meanwhile, was altering momentum. With 4:31 left in the fourth, she let a three-pointer loose from the top of the key for a swish, giving Florida a nine-point lead that ignited the bench. She followed up with a steal with under a minute left, leading to the possession that ultimately sealed the game for Florida.
As for Lorenzen, her effort when diving for loose balls, swatting at passes and putting up double figures didn’t go unnoticed.
Like Anderson, her individual effort was a snapshot of the identity Florida has tried to establish all season long.
"Coach always talks about making plays, and there was a couple of times where I was getting tips, and you’re just hustling," Lorenzen said.
"That’s just what we practice, and that’s just what Florida does.