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Lady Flames' Second Half Leads to 73-50 Loss to Florida
Freshman Sha Brooks scored a career-high 22 points and pulled down a career-best eight rebounds in leading Florida to its ninth straight win and its 13th State Farm Classic title in the 15-year history of the event as the Gators defeated Liberty 73-50 Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
Florida (11-1) matched three other teams in school history for the program's best start after 12 games by using a critical 14-0 run midway through the second half in turning the tables on Liberty (5-4), which had never previously trailed in the contest. The Gators out-scored the Flames 47-20 in the second half as UF connected on 14-of-28 shots, while hitting a season-best 26-of-30 free throws in the game (86.7 percent).
The Gators became just the third team to out-rebound Liberty this season as UF finished with 44 to 29 for the Flames. In winning its ninth consecutive game, Florida matched the second-longest winning streak in school history – just three shy of the school record of 12 set during the 1993-94 season. The Gators hadn't won nine in a row since 2000-01.
Dalila Eshe added 13 points, including a 9-of-10 effort from the free throw line, and eight rebounds for the Gators, while Brittany Davis chipped in with 10 points and seven boards. Davis crossed the 600-point career mark in the game after finishing in double figures for the 11th straight contest. Brooks, who also collected a game-high six steals, led UF's march at the free throw line hitting 11-of-12, with the Gators canning 26-of-30 during the contest.
Karolina Piotrkiewicz and Roli-Ann Nikagbatse paced Liberty with eight points each, while the Gators held the Flames' leading scorer, Megan Frazee (20.6 ppg), to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Florida improved to 6-1 on the season against teams that made the postseason in 2004-05, while also extending its winning streak to nine games – the longest stretch in Peck's tenure.
With the Flames holding a six-point lead at 40-34 with 14:36 left in the game, the Gators mounted a 14-0 run in a span of 4:21 in forging ahead 48-34 with 9:47 remaining. Five different players scored for UF in the stretch, led by Davis, who got things going with a basket at the 14:08 mark. Davis had five points in the run, while Brooks added four and provided a pair of free throws with 12:05 left as the Gators took their first lead of the game at 42-40 and never looked back.
Florida held Liberty scoreless for a 6:12 stretch as the Flames failed to record points on 11 consecutive possessions and went 0-for-10 from the floor in the stretch. Liberty came as close as five after a trey from Nikagbatse with 8:24 left, but the Gators poured on the offense the rest of the way in scoring on six of its next possession to seal the game.
The Gators scored a season-low 26 points in the first half and found themselves trailing Liberty 30-26 after making just 8-of-26 shots (30.8 percent) after 20 minutes of action. The Flames opened the contest by scoring nine of the first 11 points in bolting to a 9-2 lead with 15:58 left.
Florida fought back and remained close throughout the first frame as the Gators never trailed by more than eight. With the score 24-16 following a Liberty bucket at the 5:23 mark, UF answered with an 8-0 run in just 1:42 to tie the game for the first time. Four players scored points in the stretch with Sarah Lowe picking up the basket that led to a tie with 3:18 left. Liberty responded with six consecutive points before Danielle Santos canned a jumper with 34 seconds left to bring the scoring in the half to a close.
The Lady Flames return to action tomorrow as the State Farm Classic concludes when Liberty and Rhode Island square off at 4:30 p.m.