With a raucous home crowd surrounding them, the Gators broke their huddle and trotted out for one more defensive possession. Eight seconds remained in the game, and Ole Miss needed a bucket to pull back into the lead.
Junior guard Alissa Alston dribbled to her right, sped into the paint and elevated for a potential go-ahead layup.
At the start of the third quarter, Florida forward Paulina Hersler received a pass and pulled up from the top of the key for the Gators’ first…
But Florida forward Haley Lorenzen met her under the rim, forcing her shot off the backboard and into the arms of Dyandria Anderson with one second to go.
The defensive stop capped off on a near-perfect fourth quarter for UF (10-10, 2-5 SEC) on Sunday, as it won its second consecutive conference game in a 61-60 sequel to the two teams’ double-overtime thriller two weeks ago.
After the stop, the Rebels’ bench erupted, believing Alston had been fouled. While the replay was unclear on if there was contact on the attempt, Lorenzen said she and her teammates executed their defensive strategy to perfection.
“I just let the instincts take over," Lorenzen said. "I just did my best to not foul her and contest the layup.”
The game itself was a tale of runs. The Gators jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the second quarter before allowing Ole Miss (11-8, 1-5 SEC) to go on a 15-2 run to end the half. In the third, the Rebels used a 13-4 stretch to extend their lead to 11 with six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Long-range droughts haunted UF throughout. Florida did not make a three-point shot in both the second and third quarters for the first time this season. The team made just five shots from distance all game, its second-lowest output of the year. It was the third consecutive game that the Gators have failed to make more than seven three-pointers in their new offensive scheme, which encourages long-range shots.
However, Florida appeared to break out of its recent shooting slump from the field as whole. UF connected on 45.3 percent of its shots, its highest mark since its game against Jacksonville on Nov. 28. Sophomore guard Delicia Washington was efficient from the field, hitting 7-of-12 shots while pulling down 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double on the season. After the game, her voice was audibly wavering.
“I was hype,” Washington said, attributing her diminished voice to shouting assignments to her teammates. “Communication plays a big role. It led us to the win.”
Lorenzen’s 6-of-10 shooting — including 2 for 2 from beyond the arc — and 13 rebounds secured her 11th double-double of the year.
In the fourth quarter, Florida found itself down by 13 and seemingly running on fumes. But the Gators came out on fire, exploding for a 16-0 run in just over seven minutes. After a pair of Ole Miss layups reclaimed the lead for the Rebels, Lorenzen grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed three-pointer from Washington and banked it home to reclaim the lead for good.
Coach Cameron Newbauer said he appreciated the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd. During his team’s fourth-quarter run, Newbauer tried to engage the fans in the game, pumping his arms up and down to get them out of their seats.
“That’s one of those moments that you want everyone to see it and understand what we just did,” Newbauer said.