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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Gators claw past Tigers with late rally

<p>UF guard Eleanna Christinaki goes for a layup during Florida's 53-45 win against LSU on Jan. 17, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.</p>

UF guard Eleanna Christinaki goes for a layup during Florida's 53-45 win against LSU on Jan. 17, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

In its last game, Florida was unable to complete a rally after falling behind early against Georgia.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday.

Against LSU, the No. 20 Gators overcame a five-point deficit entering the fourth quarter and won their first Southeastern Conference home game of the season 53-45 in the O’Connell Center.

UF (15-3, 3-2 SEC) outscored LSU 20-7 in the final period, largely due to the play of guard Eleanna Christinaki.

The freshman finished with a game-high 15 points, including a three-pointer with 4:38 left in the game to give Florida its first lead since the final minute of the second quarter.

On LSU’s next possession, she followed up her three with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup.

“We wanted this bounce-back game,” Christinaki said. “We played for our fans, for the team and we were doing everything to win.”

Coming off a loss to Georgia on Thursday, UF coach Amanda Butler opted to shake up her starting lineup.

For the first time this season, juniors Simone Westbrook and Tyshara Fleming started in place of Dyandria Anderson and Haley Lorenzen.

At first, the change didn’t work.

Florida’s normally high-scoring offense, which ranks No. 6 in the country at 83.9 points per game, was held to just 33 points in the first three quarters.

But while UF’s offense was subpar in the first three quarters, its defense played well enough to hold LSU (7-11, 1-4 SEC) to 38 points over that span.

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Florida’s defense was again solid in the second half, limiting the Tigers to just 20 points on 28.6-percent shooting from the field.

Junior Ronni Williams, who finished second on the team with 11 points and was one rebound away from a double-double, contributed to Florida’s comeback.

“We practice end-of-game situations,” Williams said. “We rep that all the time.”

The team will face another SEC foe in Alabama on Thursday at home, and Butler knows that as the SEC schedule wears on, her team’s ability to rally in late-game situations will grow even more important.

“Being resilient is one of the most important qualities we need to possess,” Butler said.

Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri

UF guard Eleanna Christinaki goes for a layup during Florida's 53-45 win against LSU on Jan. 17, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

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