"I am extremely proud, I think that the young Gators showed they have a lot of heart and it doesn't matter how old you are or how many years of experience (you have)," UF head coach Carolyn Peck said. "This team is exactly that - a team. And when they step out on to that floor they're not categorized by what class they're in. They're categorized by how much class they have and I think our whole team has a lot of class."
Florida led for the first 32 minutes of the game, stretching its largest lead to 15 points in the first half, taking a 33-22 halftime advantage. But Florida State stormed out of the lockerroom using a 13-2 run to test the young Florida team and close to within two (37-35) with 14:56 remaining in the game.
Mosby hit a jumper to slow the Seminole run, keeping UF's in the lead 39-35. Both teams traded baskets until the 10-minute mark, but the Gators still maintained the lead. Freshman guard Sarah Lowe (Wynnewood, Pa.) hit a jump shot before Hayden blocked a LaQuinta Neely shot, as the Gators held on to a 54-51 lead. Forward Dalila Eshe (Tallahassee, Fla.), Hayden and Kelly Stevenson (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) fouled back-to-back as the Seminoles clinched their only lead of the game, connecting on 4-of-5 shots from the line to take their first lead, 55-54, with 7:51 remaining.
However, freshman forward Brittany Davis (Gainesville, Fla.) came right back and made two free throws, after being fouled by FSU's Lauren Bradley, to steal the lead back for the Gators who intensified their defensive effort to inch back the lead in the final seven minutes of the game.
Mosbey scored 19 points with 13 rebounds for her first career double-double. Hayden finished the night flirting with the triple-double, contributing a season-high 18 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking nine shots. Santos tallied 19 points, while Lowe tallied 11 points.
Hayden scored 10 of Florida's first 14 points of the game to give the Gators a 14-7 edge. Hayden dominated in the middle, scoring 16 of her points in the first half while commanding the defensive tone with six blocks.
Florida scored 15 of its 33 points off FSU's turnovers to build a 11-point halftime cushion, 33-22. Neither team was unable to convert on anything from the arc but Florida made up for it on the defensive end.
"I think you get the most out of our players when you find out what drives them," said Peck. "We talked about a focus defensively and it started with Bernice Mosby. I put her in charge of the defense out there and the rest of the team fed off of it."
"Danielle has a great quickness on defense, but she's got one of the quickest releases I've ever seen," Peck said of Santos. "I've compared it to that of Sheryl Swoops. Danielle can see it and get it off. She is a phenomenal offensive threat on the floor."
The Gators will make a cross-country trip to face UC-Santa Barbara and Long Beach State. Florida faces UC-Santa Barbara on Friday, November 29th at 4 p.m. ET and Long Beach State on Sunday, December 1st at 4 p.m. ET.