WOMAN'S HOOPS: Gators win SEC opener

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS --- Senior Tamia Williams tied her career high with 23 points leading the University of Florida women's basketball team to a solid 68-56 victory over Arkansas in front of 2,318 at Bud Walton Arena.

"Tonight's victory was a total team effort," UF head coach Carolyn Peck said. "All 10 healthy players knew the game plan and knew what they needed to do in the game. I'm so proud of our team. To go on the road and to win our SEC opener was huge. Everyone was so focused and it feels great to get that monkey off our back."

The victory was the Gator's first Southeastern Conference season-opening victory since the 2000-01 season.

Williams scored 13 of her game-high 23 in the first half, when UF (10-4, 1-0 SEC) built a 43-26 lead. Tashia Morehead turned in a well-balance performance with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes of action. Eight of the 10 Gators who played scored for UF, which shot 39 percent during the game, including a 46.7 mark (7-15) from the three-point line.

Arkansas (10-3, 0-2 SEC), which did not have a player score in double-figures, committed 22 turnovers while shooting just 30.8 percent (20-65) from the floor. The Lady 'Backs did hold a 42-40 rebounding advantage, which included 24 offensive boards.

Florida began the second half committing three turnovers in the opening four minutes after having just four miscues during the first 20 minutes. Arkansas took advantage by scoring the first five points and chipped away at the Gator's 43-26 halftime advantage, eventually cutting UF's lead to 10 points, 49-39, with 13:37 remaining.

However, Tamia Williams nailed her fourth three-pointer of the game and Brittany Davis added a chip shot, as UF regained a 15-point advantage, 54-39, with 12:30 remaining in the game.

The team slowly traded buckets, as both teams had troubles scoring and Florida's turnover woes continued but the Gators still held a 60-44 lead with just under five minutes on the clock. Then April Seggebruch, who didn't even play in the first half, came off the bench to nail her first of two three-pointers during a quick and furious 10-3 run as Arkansas cut UF's lead to single digits, 63-54, with 3:07 remaining.

Arkansas had several chances to get even closer after dominating the offensive rebounds, but had trouble converting and was forced to stop the clock and begin fouling. Williams closed out the win by hitting 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in the final 1:36, as the Gators won their SEC opener for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

"I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to be 1-0 in the SEC," Peck said. "This league is so tough and getting a win on the road is especially important. Our team really knew the game plan and executed it tonight."

The Gators closed the first half on a 12-2 run to take a 43-26 halftime lead. UF netted five straight free throws to begin the spree, which was capped by a pair of three-pointers, one from Williams and the other by Sarah Lowe, who netted the final points of the half with two seconds remaining.

UF began the game scoring the first seven points, with scoring from Tamia Williams, Tashia Morehead and Tishona Gregory. Kristin Peoples answered for Arkansas, hitting back-to-back treys, as the Lady Razorbacks used a 8-1 run to even the score. The Gators responded with a 6-0 run, before UA again rallied to tie the game at 16-all with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Tamia Williams then caught fire and scored eight points during a 12-4 run that gave UF a 28-20 lead with 6:22 on the clock. After the teams exchanged buckets and Arkansas had closed within six points, 30-24, with 3:37 remaining in the period, UF ripped off a 12-2 spree to end the half and take a 43-26 lead into the locker room.

Williams' 13 points led UF's outside shooting during the first half, when the Gators hit 45.5 percent (15-33), including 5-of-9 from the three-point arc, as Williams went 3-of-4 from deep. Arkansas, which held a 20-17 rebounding advantage that included 11 on the offensive end, shot 33.3 percent (10-30) and committed 14 turnovers in the first half.

The Gators next return to action on Sunday, January 9, when they play host to Auburn (9-4, 0-0 SEC) in the O'Connell Center beginning at 3 p.m. The game will be televised live on Sunshine Network, FOX Sports Net South and FOX Sports Net Southwest as part of the SEC-TV game of the week package.

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