The Gators have had a season chock full of heartbreak — and it continued Sunday.
Down by double digits multiple times, including an 11-point deficit at halftime, the Gators rallied to tie the game at the end of regulation before eventually falling 103-97 to Vanderbilt (16-7, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) in double overtime.
The loss, Florida’s fifth in its last seven, marks the 11th game this season decided by six points or less.
“It’s not an option to hang your head,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “Does it make it tougher when you (have) another loss, instead of another win, that you know one possession … could have made it go the other way? Absolutely.”
UF (14-11, 4-7 SEC) suffered a similar defeat three days ago against Ole Miss, and again it was freshman point guard Jaterra Bonds with the ball in her hands and the game on the line.
Coming out of a timeout with less than a minute to play, the Gators could not generate an open look. Nearing the end of the shot clock, Bonds put up an erratic driving layup that was easily blocked by Commodores forward Tiffany Clarke.
Butler continuously alternated between Bonds and freshman guard Brittany Shine on nearly every possession down the stretch — Bonds on defense, Shine on offense. However, Butler defended the decision to leave Bonds in for the final minutes.
“She saw a lane and she went to the rim,” Butler said. “That’s what we needed at that time.”
Bonds, who played only eight minutes in the first half, finished with seven points on 2-of-12 shooting.
For the second straight game, it was Shine’s scoring that paced the Gators. She had nine of her 19 points in a three-minute span in the second half, and Butler said she is one of the team’s most dynamic players on offense.
“There is a look that Shine gets in her eye, and it’s inspiring” Butler said.
The progression of Shine and fellow guards Lanita Bartley and Deana Allen, who were both instrumental in Florida’s charge, is indicative of the Gators’ efforts of continued improvement, Butler said.
Allen scored a career-high 18 points and hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining to give the Gators a chance in overtime. Bartley also notched a career-high 16 points with five steals, three assists and only one turnover.
“We’re showing great signs of what we can be — and who we’re going to become,” Butler said. “We’re just kind of ready for (the latter) to show itself.”