Gators earn tough OT victory at Arkansas

At certain points in the gritty contest, it seemed as if the Gators (17-4, 5-3) would let another game slip through their fingers.

Florida G Eleanna Christinaki had other plans.

Christinaki matched Arkansas F Jessica Jackson’s 16 points and scored the game-winning layup in Florida’s 71-66 overtime victory.

From the start of the game, both squads seemed evenly matched. The Gators went back and forth with Arkansas (9-12, 4-4) but found themselves down 11-10 at the end of the first quarter.

Throughout the first half, Arkansas G Kelsey Brooks caught fire by shooting 5/6 from the field with two three-pointers. Brooks finished the first half as the top scorer with 12 points.

An early catalyst for the Gators was G Carla Batchelor who came off the bench and finished the game with 11 points, nine of them coming in the first two quarters of play.

Neither team would budge for their opponent in the second quarter and Arkansas finished the half up 26-25.

The Gators came out of the half sluggish and saw their deficit grow larger. Jessica Jackson became more involved in the Razorback offense and began to dominate down low in the paint.

Arkansas took a 39-29 lead midway through the third quarter and appeared to be pulling away from the Gators.

Florida head coach Amanda Butler gathered her team at the media timeout with 4:58 remaining in the third. Immediately after, G Cassie Peoples drained a three and spurred the Gators comeback.

The Razorbacks saw a double-digit lead wither away as Christinaki caught fire in the second half and finished the night shooting 7/14 from the field. By the end of the third quarter Florida had tied the game 44-44 and felt the momentum swaying heavily in their favor.

Florida and Arkansas were neck-and-neck through the fourth quarter until Jessica Jackson appeared to have sealed the game for Arkansas with a free throw to put the Razorbacks up 59-57 in the final seconds.

Florida G Simone Westbrook quickly found a hole in the Arkansas defense and lofted in a layup with exactly one second remaining to tie the game at 59-59 and force overtime.

The overtime period was all Florida as they outscored Arkansas 12-7 led by the speedy Christinaki. Senior guards Cassie Peoples and Carlie Needles iced the game with their pairs of free throws and sent Florida out of Bud Walton Arena with a much-needed, hard-fought victory.

What’s Next: Florida will be facing the No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats at home on Sunday January 31 at 1:00 PM.

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