Depree Bowden took the pass, threw up a 30-footer from the left wing as time expired and thought for just a moment that it might fall and cap an improbable comeback bid by the Gators.
The senior had 22 points, but will instead remember her potential game-tying 3-pointer grazing the rim and falling short. The miss left UF to wonder what could have been as No. 20 Florida State escaped with an 81-78 victory without starting center Britany Miller.
BI knew I had to shoot it, time was running out,C Bowden said. BI didn?t quite get the look I wanted to, but I just had to shoot.C
The Gators (3-2) will ponder how this game stayed within range, despite committing 23 turnovers, giving up 22 second-chance points and trailing by 10 with just over three minutes to play.
The experience gained won?t help quell the disappointment for UF coach Amanda Butler.
BWe don?t play to get close,C Butler said. BMoral victories are something that maybe exist in other competitions, but not in this one. We?re not measured or rewarded for getting close, especially when we were in position to win and we just didn?t do the things we needed to do to finish it.C
Trailing by 4 with 1:36 to play, Butler elected to try for the defensive stop as opposed to fouling.
Her team forced a missed jump shot by Seminoles guard Tanae Davis-Cain, but was unable to gather the rebound, giving FSU possession and a fresh shot clock.
BIf we are in a position where if we get a stop and a rebound that we?re going to put ourselves in a position to win or tie the ball game, we?re going to go with playing defense every single time,C Butler said. BWe got the stop, we just have to put two hands on the ball and get possession.C
Guard Sha Brooks (13 points) picked the pocket of Seminoles senior Shante Williams near midcourt with 51 seconds to play and missed a layup, but Sharielle Smith (14 points, 9 rebounds) was fouled on the putback attempt.
Smith sank both free throws to cut the lead to 78-76 with 42 seconds left, bringing the crowd, a louder-than-usual student section, to its feet.
Butler again decided not to foul, but this time Williams ran the clock down to 26 seconds before silencing the crowd by driving the lane and banking in a layup off the glass. She turned toward the student section and held her index finger to her lips as she ran back down the court.
BShe had just got her pocket picked,C FSU coach Sue Semrau said. BIt doesn?t faze her - she?s going to come back and make a big play at the other end.C
The Gators led by 4 at halftime but went cold during parts of the second half, allowing the Seminoles to go on 9-0 and 10-0 runs.
FSU guard Mara Freshour, soon to be the Seminoles? all-time leader in free-throw percentage, had the chance to ice the game with five seconds left but made only 1 of 2 at the line.
Smith grabbed the rebound and Brittaney Thomas dribbled to the top of the key before dishing it to Bowden for her desperation 3-pointer.
BWe played well enough for about 37, 36, maybe 35 minutes to win the ballgame,C Butler said. BObviously it goes for 40 and Florida State made plays when we didn?t.C