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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
<p>Freshman guard Laila Reynolds attempts a layup in the Gators&#x27; 92-54 win against the Florida A&amp;M Rattlers on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.</p>

Freshman guard Laila Reynolds attempts a layup in the Gators' 92-54 win against the Florida A&M Rattlers on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

Florida’s heart was broken. The Gators scored a clutch basket with four seconds to take a one-point lead and seemingly secure a clutch victory.

But the euphoria was short lived. Columbia guard Cecilia Collins scored with just one tick of the clock left to steal the lead.

All senior guard Aliyah Matharu needed, however, was that one tick.

After a Florida timeout, Matharu hit the game-winning three-pointer as the clock expired to steal victory from imminent defeat.

The Florida Gators (5-1) escaped the Columbia Lions (2-4) 83-81 Wednesday afternoon in the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship. 

Matharu scored a game-high 26 points —- one shy of her career high —- including the buzzer-beater triple to secure a Bahamas sweep for UF.

Florida led after a high-scoring first quarter. Senior forward Faith Dut got involved early with six first-quarter points. Senior guard Leilani Correa hit a pair of triples as Florida led 22-19 after one.

Columbia guard Kitt Henderson kept the Lions close with four early field goals. Guard Abbey Hsu aggressively attacked the perimeter with two made 3-pointers on six attempts in the first.

The high scoring continued into the second quarter. The Lions took a 31-30 lead off a Henderson triple, but the Gators answered with a pair of free throws from senior center Ra Shaya Kyle.

Junior guard Alberte Rimdal hit a three to take a 35-34, but Florida’s offense dried up the rest of the quarter. The Gators went without a field goal for the last four minutes of the first half.

Columbia took advantage of Florida’s offensive dry spell to take a halftime lead. Guard Fliss Henderson made a layup with 44 seconds left to take a 43-39 lead into the break.

Hsu scored a layup to push Columbia’s lead to 47-41 early in the third. Florida responded with a run of its own to reclaim the lead. Kyle scores at the rim to give the Gators a 51-49 advantage.

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Hsu scored again to give the Lions a 54-53 edge, but Florida’s defense locked down Columbia for the final four minutes of the third. 

The Gators capitalized on their defensive showing with an 8-0 run — capped off by a triple from Mathatu — to take a 61-54 lead into the final period of play.

The Lions immediately answered with an 11-2 run to retake the lead early in the fourth. Columbia’s quick explosion set in motion a back-and-forth final quarter.

Hsu drilled a triple to take a 78-71 lead with 3:26 to play. Florida battled back, and Rimdal hit another three-pointer to cut the lead to one with under two minutes to play.

A chaotic final sequence saw the Gators take the lead with four seconds, only to lose the lead with a second to play.

Matharu’s final triple secured the win in the final moments.

The Gators will return stateside for the ACC/SEC Challenge against Georgia Tech Nov. 29. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

Contact Topher Adams at tadams@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.


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