WOMEN'S HOOPS: Gators Spring Upset On #2 LSU

It was Senior Night at the O'Connell Center Thursday but it was a freshman that led the way for the Florida Gators. Just four days after Coach Carolyn Peck said that Sha Brooks went soft in a loss to South Carolina, the freshman from Memphis responded with a career high 25 points to lead the Florida Gators to a shocking 79-78 overtime win over second ranked LSU, ending the Tigers' 24-game SEC winning streak.

The win improved the Gators to 19-6 overall, 7-5 in the Southeastern Conference, plus it greatly enhanced Florida's chances of a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. LSU suffered its first SEC loss of the season as the Tigers dropped to 22-2 overall and 10-1 in the conference.

Brooks nailed four three-pointers while setting a Florida season record for three-point shots by a freshman with 53 to give the Gators a huge offensive boost against LSU's highly favored Tigers. She also contributed five steals and five assists.

"Sha Brooks really played very seasoned today," Peck said. "When you have that coming from a freshman in a game like this, the future is bright for this program."

Brooks did her part to help the Gators but Senior Night wouldn't be complete without some superlative senior moments and Florida got them from Dalila Eshe and Sara Lowe. Eshe scored 22 points including eight overtime points and a critical three-pointer over LSU's 6-6 center Sylvia Fowles with less than a minute to play that gave Florida a 73-72 lead in the extra period. Lowe scored 17 points and it was her two free with three seconds remaining that sealed Florida's first win ever over a top four-rated opponent.

Florida's other two seniors, Brittany Davis and Danielle Santos, battled through foul trouble throughout the night but they combined to help the Florida cause with six points and 10 rebounds. Davis, who spent the evening battling against Fowles and first team All-American Seimone Augustus, fouled out with 1:42 remaining in overtime.

(Photo by VeridicusGator)

Florida was down by three points (78-75) when Lowe drove the lane for a layup to close the gap to one with 11 seconds remaining. Florida fouled LSU's RaShonta LeBlanc on the inbounds pass and the sophomore cracked under the pressure, missing both foul shots. Marshae Dotson rebounded the second miss for the Gators and after a Florida time out, the Gators inbounded the ball to Lowe who drove the lane and was fouled by Augustus with three seconds left.

"When I saw Sarah was the one going, I felt very confident," Peck said. "I know that that's the position that Sarah wants to be in."

Lowe calmly made her first attempt to tie the game at 78-78 and after an LSU timeout, she knocked down the second foul shot to give the Gators a win to remember for the outgoing seniors and a statement victory for Coach Peck.

"I knew I was going to make those free throws," Lowe said. "I never had a doubt in my mind. We shoot free throws every day and I felt relaxed and took myself back to the practice court. This was an amazing win and I couldn't have scripted a better way to have my final home game end in the O'Connell Center."

LSU led by as many as eight points in the first half but Florida kept battling back behind Brooks, who scored 13 of her points before halftime and tenacious defense. Florida forced 22 LSU turnovers in the game. Erica White's jumper with two seconds remaining gave LSU a 36-34 halftime lead.

LSU got off to a good start in the second half scoring four quick points behind Augustus, who finished the game with 35 points on 13-19 shooting. Again, Florida wouldn't fold and Florida came back to tie the game.

The Tigers went on a 9-0 run starting with 12:18 to play, ending at the 7:58 mark when Dotson hit a couple of free throws for the Gators. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Fowles, who scored 23 points and hauled in 16 rebounds, went to the floor with a knee injury. With the 6-6 center on the bench, the Gators went straight to Eshe inside and she responded with a layup. Fowles returned to the game but Santos got a steal and her pass to Eshe got another layup to close the LSU gap to two points.

In the final two minutes of regulation Santos and the Gators were able to shut down the All-American Augustus and Lowe hit a jumper with 52 seconds left to bring the Gators all the way back and tie the game at 65.

After a turnover by LSU the Gators called a timeout with 23 seconds left to set up the final play for a win in regulation but the Gators were unable to get a quality shot off.

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