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Florida rallies to defeat Alabama

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 12:22 am

Alabama has become a sight for sore eyes for Jaterra Bonds and Florida this season. But Sunday’s matchup hung in the balance longer than expected.

For the second time in Southeastern Conference play, the Gators snapped an extended losing streak with a victory against the Crimson Tide. Using a late second-half run, Florida upended Alabama 67-61 in Foster Auditorium.

The Gators beat the Crimson Tide 87-54 on Feb. 3 in the O’Connell Center to snap a five-game losing streak. Sunday’s win ended a three-game skid for UF.

"This is a great sign of this team growing and maturing and playing the way that we should play in the face of adversity," coach Amanda Butler said. "They kept fighting and finding ways to make a difference. They handled the challenges that their coaches issued to them and made plays in critical, critical moments."

Nothing proved more critical than Florida’s response to Alabama taking a 13-point lead with 10:36 remaining.

Following a jumper by Jasmine Robinson, the Crimson Tide led 53-40. Florida responded with a 21-4 run during the next 6:26 to take a 61-57 lead.

Alabama (12-15, 2-12 SEC) never countered.

"We went out there and ran and played defense and did all of the small things that we took for granted in the beginning of the game," sophomore Kayla Lewis said. "We just had to come out and play hard to dig out of that hole."

Bonds led the Gators with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Crimson Tide has struggled to slow the junior guard, who scored 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting in UF’s 33-point blowout of Alabama earlier this season.

Bonds also grabbed six rebounds and collected four assists on Sunday.

"She plays to win every time she steps on the floor," Lewis said of Bonds. "But where she has grown as a player is picking her spots. They were giving her spots, and she was scoring. She took advantage of every opportunity there was for her to score."

Lewis finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for her third-career double-double.

Neither team found any consistent offense in the first half. The two squads combined for 23 turnovers and just 23 made shots prior to halftime.

Florida (16-12, 5-9 SEC) led 32-31 at the break despite exhibiting some of its sloppiest play of the season.

Junior guard Lily Svete scored all 11 of her points in the first half. She made her first three attempts from behind the arc before missing her final five tries.

Alabama opened the second half with an 8-0 run and used a 22-8 advantage during the first 9:24 to take a 13-point lead. But the Gators answered to avoid another crippling defeat.

"We had some players that we had been waiting on earlier in the game to come alive that came alive," Butler said. "It was just a tremendous amount of fight."

The victory was Florida’s first at Alabama since 2009. The Crimson Tide has dropped eight consecutive games to fall into a tie for last in the SEC with Ole Miss.

"[Alabama] plays hard in this gym," Lewis said. "They took [Arkansas] to triple overtime. They play very well here. We had to be prepared for that, which we were, and came out with this win."

A radio broadcast contributed to this reports.

Contact Phillip Heilman at [email protected].

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