40 Lady Vol free throws spell doom for Gators

The Florida Gators women's basketball team loves to play up tempo, transition basketball but their tempo was slowed to a crawl Thursday night against nationally number five ranked Tennessee, thanks to three referees playing a game of dueling whistles.

Florida played hard and played great defense, but you can't defend free throws and that's where the Lady Vols (17-3, 7-0 SEC) won a hard fought 91-82 victory over the Gators (12-9, 3-5 SEC) before a crowd of 2,137 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Thursday night. The Vols made (40) more free throws than the Gators attempted (34). Tennessee was a remarkable 40-46 from the line and that gave Coach Pat Summit the win even though Florida had more field goals (26-23), more three pointers (6-5), more rebounds (39-37) and more assists (14-10).

The slowed pace of the game because of the never-ending whistles wasn't lost on either coach.

"They shot 46 free throws and it was almost like a game of horse," UF Head Coach Carolyn Peck said. "There are some games that we go in and those fouls aren't called, and sometimes I think we are going to have to roll oxygen out for the people tootin' that whistle and that disrupts us trying to play our game."

Summit spent a good portion of the game getting on the case of the referees, but it didn't seem to matter. The game took two and a half hours to play and there were 62 fouls called and 80 free throws shot. Although she was visibly irritated during the game and in the post-game press conference by the officiating, she bit her tongue and stopped short of blasting the referees.

"There were a lot of fouls tonight, but I must say I'm proud of my team for making the plays that they had to make to win that game," she said. "I've got to look at the tape because it was really hard for me to watch that game."

For the Gators, the loss was particularly tough since Florida battled back from a six point deficit in the final 2:23 of the game. A Danielle Santos jumper with 2:13 remaining cut the lead to four, and Tashia Morehead cut it to one at the 1:33 mark with a three-pointer from the left wing after a timely steal by Bernice Mosby.

Mosby made the steal on the right wing, then fired a cross court pass to Morehead who took the shot without hesitation.

"When you shoot, your mind isn't on anything else," said Moorehead, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. "I was just concentrating on taking that shot.

A free throw by Brittany Davis with 1:06 remaining tied the game at 67-67. The Gators again played lock down defense that forced a turnover by Tennessee with 52 seconds remaining and 18 seconds later, Santos was fouled. She calmly sank both free throws to give Florida a two-point lead.

Tennessee ran a play to Shanna Zolman who drove to the hoop against Mosby. Zolman went up for her shot and Mosby came up with what looked to be the cleanest blocked shot of the night, but instead of a sterling defensive play, she was called for a foul. Zolman knocked down both free throws to tie the game.

The Gators tried to free up Mosby for a final shot, but her running jumper in the lane rimmed out as time expired.

"I had an open look and took it, but it didn't go in," said Mosby who led the Gators with 28 points.

In overtime, Zolman, who led the NCAA in free throw shooting percentage last year, knocked down a clutch three-pointer and added four free throws as the Lady Vols pulled away at the foul line. Zolman finished the game 9-10 at the foul line, 3-4 from beyond the arc and 28 points.

Even in loss, Peck was proud of her team's performance, and more importantly, the direction of the team. She felt compelled to tell the room full of reporters a classic Ron Zook line.

"We are moving in the right direction and getting better each game," Peck said. "Our record doesn't indicate how good we are and I'm glad it was televised so everyone can see what kind of a team we have. The fact that we took Tennessee, the number five team in the country, says we are pretty dang good and we are definitely moving in the right direction."

The Gators travel to Alabama Sunday.

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