WOMEN'S HOOPS: Gators fall to Bama in SEC Tourney

GREENVILLE, S.C. * The University of Florida women's basketball team jumped out to a quick 14-point lead, but couldn't fend off an emotional Alabama squad that downed the Gators 62-58 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament held at the Bi-Lo Center.

Florida (14-14) lost its fourth consecutive game, while the Crimson Tide (14-14) ended a six-game losing streak and extended the career of head coach Rick Moody, who announced he will retire at the conclusion of this season after 16 years on Alabama's sideline.

Junior Brittany Davis led Florida with 16 points and a career-high nine rebounds, while drawing three defensive charges during the game. Tamia Williams added 15 points for the Gators, who shot a woeful 23.1 percent (6-26) during the deciding second half. Florida hit 32.8 percent (20-61) during the game, while Alabama hit a similar 32.1 percent (17-53), but canned 10-of-17 from the three-point line. The Tide also held a 41-39 rebounding edge and hit 18-of-27 from the free throw line, while the Gators managed 13-of-16.

Monique Bivins led all scorers, netting 25 points that included six during Alabama's game-ending 12-2 run in the final 4:30 of the contest. Navonda Moore tallied 13 points for the Tide, sparking UA's final run with a trey from near the top of the arc.

"This was a great basketball game and I'm very proud of our team," UF head coach Carolyn Peck said. "Our shot wouldn't fall in the second half. Bivins got loose and made some tough shots. Free throws decided this game. I'm proud of our team. We have an RPI of 35 and a schedule rated third in the country. With the adversity we've faced and the fact that we still have a winning record, I think we deserve an NCAA bid."

Bivins canned a pair of three-pointers in the opening stages of the second half to give Alabama a 38-33 lead after the game was locked at 32-all at halftime. The Gators chipped away at the deficit, tying it after Tishona Gregory nailed a trey before Tashia Morehead gave Florida a 42-40 advantage with a deep jumper from just inside the arc.

Neither team scored for the next two-plus minutes until Lateefah Joye sank two from the charity stripe to tie the game at 42 with 12:13 remaining. Dalila Eshe then answered with a pair of free throws to recapture the lead for the Gators, 44-42. Alabama responded with a 6-0 spree, as Florida's shot wouldn't fall, taking a 48-44 lead with under 10 minutes left.

The Gators finally broke a five-plus minute spell without a field goal when Sarah Lowe found a streaking Brittany Davis for a break-away layup with 8:17 on the clock that had UF within two, 48-46. But Dee Merriweather came right back with a give-and-go for the Tide to keep the four-point advantage.

Florida then pounded the ball inside to Davis, who hit two free throws. Gregory stole Alabama's in-bounds ensuing pass and was fouled and hit a pair from the stripe, as the Gators were in the midst of a 10-0 run with the first eight point coming from a perfect effort from the line. Gregory found Morehead, who sank a power driving layup to end the spree with the Gators holding a 56-50 lead with 5:30 remaining.

But that would be Florida's last field goal of the game, as Alabama ended the game with a 12-2 run that was sparked by Navonda Moore's three-pointer. Bivins tallied six points during the Tide's final game-deciding run, hitting 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

Florida jumped out to a 23-9 lead over the opening 10:36 of the game, thanks to the sharp shooting of Tamia Williams, who broke out of a mini scoring drought to net 12 points. Brittany Davis provided the inside spark with 10 points and six rebounds during the first half.

However, Alabama refused to fold and staged a 15-0 run over the next six-plus minutes to take a 24-23 lead with 4:10 left in the period. Tishona Gregory finally ended the Gator's cold spell by hitting a three-pointer and Davis followed with a 12-footer from the top of the key. After one Alabama free throw, Davis scored again to extend UF's lead to five, 30-25, with 2:05 on the clock.

The Tide then ended the period on a 7-2 run, as Monique Bivins scored all seven points for Alabama that included a trey at the buzzer to tie the score at 32-all entering the locker room.

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