Florida’s game against South Alabama on Tuesday night was reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities.”
However, rather than cities, it was a tale of two halves.
While things went South Alabama’s way early, Florida was able to dominate the second half and came out of Mobile, Alabama, with a 72-60 victory.
South Alabama, despite coming off a 36-77 home loss to Central Florida, came out playing with something to prove.
The Jaguars hit an encouraging 14-for-28 in the first half, which was good enough to hang with an ice-cold Florida team that went a frustrating 12-for-39 over the same span.
“You have to give South Alabama a lot of credit,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said.
“They made us play ugly today.”
The Gators (6-1) needed a spark to get into the game, as they were shooting as poorly as 5-for-25 at one point.
They found that spark in redshirt senior guard Carlie Needles.
With less than two minutes left in the second quarter, Needles got Florida going by sinking a field goal and the accompanying free throw to complete a 3-point play. She then hit back-to-back threes.
At the start of that span, Florida had been down 18-26, its largest deficit of the game. At the end of her run, Needles had nearly single-handedly brought the Gators within three at 27-30.
Still, South Alabama’s blistering shooting performance was good enough to give it a 34-33 lead at the break.
It wouldn’t last.
Junior forward Ronni Williams opened the second half scoring and gave Florida its first lead of the game.
The Gators didn’t look back from there.
Roles were now reversed, as it was now USA that went ice cold while UF heated up in the second.
At the end of things, Florida shot 45.7 percent in the second half compared to South Alabama’s 27.9 percent. For the game, UF’s shooting percentage bested USA’s by an ever-so-slight 0.6 percent.
The Gators led by as many as 17 late in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Needles, Williams and sophomore guard Dyandria Anderson, who all scored in double figures.
Needles led all UF scorers with 15, while Williams and Anderson both registered double-doubles. For Anderson, it was the first of her career.
“You don’t really notice what she does as much because she’s so consistent,” Butler said of Anderson.
“She’s one of those players who is just doing her job so it’s a really quiet, but she gave us a very impactful and important 13 points and 10 rebounds.”
South Alabama (1-3) lacks the talent and resources of Florida, but was able to hang around in the first half because it was well-rested.
“I think the road caught up with us a little bit,” Butler said.
The Jaguars hadn’t played since facing UCF last week.
The Gators also played eight days ago, but, in addition, played twice during Thanksgiving break in Colorado.
“We learned a great lesson about mental readiness,” Butler added.
“I think physically we were ready, but we didn’t come out of the gates like we needed to, but we did win.”
Luckily for the Gators, a much-needed break is now upon them. UF next takes the floor on Dec. 7 when it hosts Arkansas State at 7 p.m.
Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri
UF guard Dyandria Anderson drives down the court during Florida's win against Savannah State.