VU women fall at Florida, 73-59

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A second half comeback by Florida lifted the Gators to a 73-59 victory over Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon in the O'Connell Center on the University of Florida campus. Junior guard Caroline Williams led Vanderbilt in scoring with 17 points, followed by junior post Carla Thomas with 14 points, and senior post Nicole Jules with 13 points off the bench.

Early in the game, the Vanderbilt post players dominated the scoring. Thomas and Jules combined to score Vanderbilt's first 14 points of the game, giving the Commodores a 14-7 lead midway through the first half. Then Williams got into the act, hitting a couple of 3-pointers as well as scoring on a pair of driving layups and hitting a pair of free throws.

After an early 2-2 tie, Vanderbilt led the entire first half, although the Gators were in hot pursuit. After the lead grew to nine points at 16-7, Florida cut it back to 2 points at 18-16 with 5:48 left in the half. But the Commodores were able to stretch it out again to an 8-point halftime lead at 34-26, despite the fact that three starters -- Carla Thomas, Liz Sherwood, and point guard Dee Davis -- were in early foul trouble with two fouls each.

The roof began to cave in as soon as the second half began. In the first three minutes of the second half, a 9-0 Florida run erased the Vanderbilt lead and gave the Gators the lead for the first time since they scored the opening basket of the game.

Vanderbilt's problems were amplified as Vanderbilt continued to get deeper in the foul trouble. Thomas was whistled for her third foul just a few minutes into the second half. Midway through the half, Davis picked up her third and fourth fouls in less than a minute and had to go to the bench with Vanderbilt trailing by three points at 48-45 with 8:41 left in the game. Soon afterwards, Thomas also was charged with her fourth foul.

As the Gators began to smell blood in the water, the hometown crowd joined the feeding frenzy, and the game began to slip away from the Commodores. With six minutes left, the Florida lead swelled to 10 points at 57-47 on a 3-pointer by Kim Dye, and a minute later, a 3-point shot by Danielle Santos bounced high off the rim, then fell through the net, stretching the lead out to 13 points at 62-49 with 4:45 left in the game. After a free throw by Jules, Dye hit another 3-pointer to give Florida a 15-point lead at 65-50.

Then a 3-pointer by Holly Rogers cut the lead back to 12 points and gave the Commodores a glimmer of hope, but soon afterwards Davis fouled out of the game, and Vanderbilt was able to come no closer. For the rest of the games, the teams traded baskets, and when the final buzzer sounded, Florida claimed the 73-59 victory.

Statistically, the game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, Vanderbilt shot 62.5% from the field compared to only 25% for Florida. In the second half, however, the Gators shot 58% from the field, while the Commodores shot only 37%. In the first half, Vanderbilt out-rebounded Florida 17-10, but in the second half, Florida outrebounded Vanderbilt 18-14.

One statistic that remainded relatively constant was free throws. In the first half, Vanderbilt only went to the free throw line twice, while Florida shot12 free throws. In the second half, Vanderbilt attempted five free throws compared to 17 for Florida. For the game, the Gators were 22 of 29 from the free throw line, while Vanderbilt was 5 of 7.

With the loss, Vanderbilt falls to 13-6 overall and 2-3 in the SEC, while Florida improves to 15-3 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. Next action for Vanderbilt is a Thursday night trip to Baton Rouge to play the Lady Tigers of LSU. The next home game for the Commodores is Sunday January 29, when the Ole Miss Lady Rebels visit Memorial Gym for "Jam the Gym" Day. All tickets are $1. Special activities with include mascot basketball at halftime and autographs after the game.

Vanderbilt's Nicole Jules tries to hold onto the ball as Florida's Sarah Lowe (11) and Dalila Eshe (34) try to gain possession in women's basketball play during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

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