Women's Hoops win first round game

<B>Albuquerque, NM - </B>Vanessa Hayden scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half as the University of Florida women's basketball team fought off a furious late rally to defeat New Mexico 68-56 in the first round of the NCAA Championship. The game was played at The Pit/Bob King Court in front of 16,029 frenzied Lobo fans, marking the third largest crowd the Gators have ever played in front of in program history.

Florida meets No. 4 seed and 15th-ranked Baylor (25-8) in the NCAA second round on Monday beginning at 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. MT).

The No. 5-seeded Gators (19-10) scored the final 10 points of the game after Melissa Forest hit a 3-pointer with 2:57 remaining that cut UF's lead to two points, 58-56. After Forest's trey, the Gators turned the ball over with a 30-second violation that could have been credited to the 16,029 crazed fans that made communication between UF's coaches and players impossible.

However on UNM's ensuing possession, Tishona Gregory picked the pocket of Fatima Maddox and raced the length of the court where she completed a three-point play after being fouled by Maddox. Gregory then returned to the free throw line after being fouled by Maddox in the backcourt and nailed both ends of the one-and-one to extended UF's lead to 63-56 with 1:41 remaining. On UNM's next possession, Maddox missed a jumper and Hayden collected the miss and the Gators raced down the court where Santos put up an 18-footer with her toe on the three-point line that extended UF's lead to nine points, 65-56, with 1:03 on the clock. Hayden hit one free throw with 39 seconds remaining and Bernice Mosby closed the game's scoring with two more from the charity stripe with 30 ticks left.

Mosby shared game-high scoring honors with Hayden, netting 17 with seven rebounds off the bench. Tashia Morehead recorded all of her 16 points in the first half, when Hayden collected two fouls after playing just six minutes. Morehead joined Hayden with a double-double, as she collected a game-high 11 rebounds to post her fourth double-double of the season. Hayden snared nine of her 10 boards in the second half en route to posting her 17th double-double of the year and the 50th of her career.

Florida shot 40.7 percent (24-59) from the floor and scored 68 points against New Mexico which entered the game with the nation's top defense that had allowed just 50.5 points per game and opponent to shot just 33.0 percent from the field.

Lindsey Arndt scored 11 points to lead No. 12-seeded New Mexico (23-8), which saw its 11-game win streak snapped.

Sarah Lowe hit a jumper that gave the Gators a 53-39 lead with 11:33 remaining before New Mexico rallied with a 15-5 run, cutting UF's advantage to two points, 58-56 with 2:57 on the clock.

Tashia Morehead carried the Gators offensively in the first half, netting 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting that included a 4-for-4 effort from the three-point line. Morehead began the game's scoring hitting her first trey en route to scoring all Gator points during a game-opening 8-3 run.

Melissa Forrest answered with a trey for New Mexico and the teams continued to trade baskets for the next three minutes until Morehead canned another from behind the arc and Bernice Mosby followed with a pair of free throws to give UF a 19-11 lead with 13:01 remaining in the first half. But the Lobos struck back with five straight points after Judy Vogt put back an offensive rebound and Mandy Moore followed with a three-pointer that cut UF's lead to three points, 19-16.

But Morehead canned her fourth trey of the game to spark a 7-0 run for the Gators that lifted the lead to 10, 26-16. UNM responded with a 5-0 spree and the teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, as UF held a 33-26 lead entering the locker room.

Game Notes
Florida vs. New Mexico
• Tonight's attendance – 16,029 – is the third-largest all-time for a first/second round game (overall and in the midwest regional);
University Arena/The Pit holds the top three spots in first round attendance (16,214 is the record, set 3/24/03).
• Florida's Vanessa Hayden's block with 45 seconds left gave her 100 in the season and 350 in her career. Third time in UF team history that a player has blocked 100 shots in a single campaign (Hayden set the team record with 126 in 2002).
• Florida's Hayden registered her 50th career double-double.
• New Mexico loss snaps an 11-game winning streak and drops the Lobos to 2-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
• Florida's win evens its record in NCAA Tournament games at 9-9. The Gators advance to the second round for the fifth time and first since 2001.
• New Mexico's 56 points tied the Lobos for the fifth-lowest total in NCAA Tournament history. • New Mexico's 21 3FG attempted tied fourth in NCAA Tournament history.
• New Mexico turned the ball over just 12 times, tied for fourth-least in an NCAA Tournament game.
• Florida closed the game on a 10-0 run over the last 2:56. N ew Mexico's last basket was a 3-pointer by Melissa Forest.
New Mexico Lobos (56) vs. Florida Gators (68)
Post Game Quotes
New Mexico Head Coach Don Flanagan
Opening Statement:
"Congratulations to Florida. I thought they played a very good game under difficult circumstances. The crowd was terrific tonight and it's difficult to play in front of a crowd like that. It seemed to make them play even harder. They did a great job. We shot poorly the first half and got behind, and one thing we didn't want to do is play from behind. They have so many physical players and so many talented players that we didn't want to get behind. We wanted to keep the game flowing and eventually wear them down as the game progressed. We dug ourselves into a deep hole and almost came back. We want to congratulate our players for a good effort coming back."

New Mexico - Melissa Forest
(On shooting fewer three pointers and going inside when Vanessa Hayden was in the game) "They were zoning us and they were leaving our three pointers open. Coach Flanagan tells us to take a shot. We work as a team to get shooters open. We didn't hit our game."

New Mexico - Lindsey Arndt
(On losing only two senior, and the potential for the team next year.) "Obviously we have a lot of players returning. We did lose two good players, however we have everybody else back and are a young team. The team has a lot of potential and our freshmen grew this year. We just have to get stronger and faster, and with everybody coming back, I think we can be just as good if not better."

New Mexico Lobos (56) vs. Florida Gators (68)
Post Game Quotes

Florida Head Coach Carolyn Peck
Opening Statement:
"What a game. The Lady Lobos are a phenomenal team. And their defense, there is a reason they are number one in the country. They play every second. It was a battle, the crowd was tremendous. The University of New Mexico has a great set of fans. It was so loud at times I couldn't talk to my coaches. We got the shot clock violation on us just because we couldn't communicate on the floor, that is what women's basketball is about and I love it that they had 16,000 screaming fans were at a women's basketball game. I am extremely proud of this team, to pull together and get a great effort from every single person. It took a lot of work to score against them, every ounce of energy we had. I am proud and very happy our team will continue to play and I really hope the Lobo fans will come and yell for us on Monday. We will try to carry the torch from this game."

Florida Senior Vanessa Hayden
(On not being intimidated by the environment) "On the outside you can say we were not intimidated, but the screaming crowd could be very intimidating. I think we did a great job of communicating on the floor because you could hear absolutely nothing out there tonight. We did well of coming into a tough crowd and playing together."

(On being on the bench for twelve minutes) "It was tough being on the bench, but I became a cheerleader from that point on until the end of the first half. I think that got me through it and my teammates stepped up and did a great job. Tashia Morehead came into the game ready to play and I am really proud of her. I was upset but I got over it really quickly and I became a cheerleader, I wanted to win and I knew being upset wouldn't help us win."

Florida Junior Tashia Morehead
(On being in the position of having Vanessa Hayden have two quick fouls) "Yes we have. Vanessa (Hayden) had two quick fouls during the Georgia game. That's when the team comes together like we did today."

(On Tashia's feeling during the first half) "I think it was a rhythm. Vanessa (Hayden) gave me a lot of confidence by telling me I needed to shoot and I took that to heart. I felt that rhythm and I just kept on shooting.

Fightin Gators Top Stories