WOMEN'S HOOPS: Gets gut check win over BU

Having recently experienced basketball at an all-time low, Tashia Morehead was in no mood to pull a repeat Wednesday night at the State Farm Classic at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. <p> "After that Richmond game, that was the worst feeling we've had," said Morehead, a 5-11 senior forward from Panama City. "Having been through that, we didn't want to feel that again."

Coming off a 79-77 double overtime loss to Richmond, Morehead and her Florida Gator teammates pulled off what Coach Carolyn Peck called a "gut check" victory when they held Boston College scoreless in the final 2:59 to take a 66-59 win that advanced them to Thursday's championship game against Charlotte, a first round winner over Florida A&M.

It was Morehead's jumper from the left wing with 1:05 remaining that broke a 59-59 tie to put the Gators (7-4 for the season) ahead for good in the game. Morehead, who finished the night with 15 points in her most extensive action of the year (26 minutes), would contribute a steal, a key rebound and two free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game to lock down the win.

Morehead's heroics helped offset a gutty performance by Boston College, playing shorthanded due to injuries. The Terriers played only eight players the entire night, and though smaller and slower than the Gators, they made up for their lack of athletic talent with hustle and heads up play. The Gators led by as many as nine points twice in the first half and by 10 in the early minutes of the second, only to see the Terriers claw their way back into the game behind Rachael Vanderwal and Adrienne Norris, who each finished with 17 points.

"You have to compliment Boston," said Peck. "They're a very good ball club. Adrienne Norris is a tremendous ball player as well as Rachael Vanderwal, but I have to compliment our team for a solid team defensive effort. They were called upon as individuals to do certain things and also to take care of each other."

It was the final three minutes of the game when the Gators really showed the kind of defensive toughness that Peck hopes can carry over positively into the SEC schedule that looms ahead. Starting with a steal by Sarah Lowe with 2:30 remaining, the Gators played lock down defense the rest of the way, limiting the Terriers to only three shots in those last minutes of the game.

"I have to give all the credit to the team," said Peck. "It was a gut check. They are the ones who got down and buckled down to play very determined, especially on the defensive end."

The Gators showed the kind of toughness that Peck has been looking for in her team, something she knows they will need once the conference grind begins.

"Their focus was on each other defensively and as we go through this season, especially as we get into conference play, we have to have that," said Peck. "In the SEC, every opponent is tough and there is never going to be an easy game."

Florida flirted with making it an easy game early on when Bernice Mosby scored eight straight points to stake the Gators to an 11-2 lead, but Boston College found a way to contain Mosby the rest of the half and crept back into the game. The Terriers limited Mosby to two points the rest of the half and cut Florida's lead to four on several occasions.

Florida moved the ball around and got points from five different players to expand a 34-28 halftime lead to 46-36 on a pair of Mosby free throws with 13:29 remaining in the game, but that's when Boston University came alive. With Vanderwal scoring seven points, the Terriers went on a 12-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 48-46 with 10:15 remaining.

The lead would change four times before the Gators dug in and took matters into their own hands on the defensive end of the court with Morehead coming through with the big plays.

"We as a team and coaching staff and players as well, have a lot of confidence in Tashia and when they give her the ball she can make the right things happen," said Peck of her senior whose minutes have been limited as she continues to recover from injury. In addition to her scoring, Morehead had five rebounds, four assists, a blocked shot and a steal.

Mosby finished the night with a game-high 19 points while Tishona Gregory matched Morehead with 15.

The Gators will play a red hot Charlotte team Thursday night in the tournament final. Charlotte comes into the game 11-1. The Forty-Niners associate head coach is former Gator Amanda Butler.

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