GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Senior Brittney Vaughn hit 18 points and rallied her team to within seconds of a road victory at the University of Florida, but the Gators hung on to defeat the University of Arkansas, 75-73.
Arkansas, 17-8, drops to 2-7 in Southeastern Conference play while the Gators advance to 16-10 overall and 5-6 in conference.
The Lady’Backs led by as many as 10 early, and held an eight-point lead in the second before Florida managed to battle back into the game.
“I’m so disappointed for our kids,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “We might have played as hard in this game as we’ve played all year long. We got the stops when we needed them. Our Arkansas fans would be awfully, awfully proud of the way we battled. We hung in there and did what we had to do.”
Arkansas had four players in double digits, with junior Ayana Brereton also adding 18 points. Charity Ford had 17 points and Sarah Pfeifer 12.
Trailing by six late in the game, a pair of three-pointers by Arkansas’ steady seniors tied the game with 30 seconds left to play.
Florida missed its last shot, and Vaughn came away with the rebound. Charging up the floor, she stumbled at midcourt trying to avoid a collision.
“There’s no doubt in my mind she was going to hit the game winner,” Collen said. “She’d done everything possible in this game. I couldn’t be any prouder of her if she made the shot and we won the game.”
Jennifer Mossor led Florida with 20 points, followed by 17 from Depreee Bowden and 16 from Sha Brooks.
The Lady’Backs led most of the contest, including taking the lead into intermission, but back-to-back jumpers from Mosser put the Gators in the lead with nine minutes left to play, 57-53.
The Gators used three-point power to keep Arkansas at bay until a Ford free throw tied the game at 67-67 with 4:18 left. A flurry of three steals led to a 6-0 run that put Florida ahead for good, 73-67, with three minutes left to play.
Pfiefer’s fourth three-pointer of the game brought the score back to 73-70 with 2:23 left.
Neither team could score for the next two minutes until Vaughn’s three-pointer with 30 seconds left tied the game at 73-73. When Florida was unable the convert in the final seconds, Vaughn’s turnover allowed Floirda to regain possession.
“I feel bad for Brittney Vaughn, she did everything she could today to help us get back in the game,” Collins said.
On the breakaway, Brooks was intentionally fouled by Pfeifer with 1.2 seconds left. She hit both free throws for the final margin.
“I think we’re getting better, but its hard right now when the final result isn’t exactly what we want,” Collins said. “They are doing everything we ask of them.”
The Lady’Backs led 19 of the first 20 minutes of the game, but the opening minutes of the second half saw a flurry of lead changes before Arkansas regained control with a 71% start from the field for a eight-point, 51-43, lead with 14 minutes to play.
Arkansas trailed 4-2 in the first minute, but took control with a three-pointer from Pfeifer to start a 7-0 run. The Lady’Backs used six straight points from Charity Ford to push out to an eight-point lead, 18-10, at the 12:15 mark.
The Lady’Back defense held Florida scoreless for almost four minutes and a Ford jumper put Arkansas ahead by 10, 24-14, before Bowden brought the Gators back almost on her own. The 5-11 senior hit nine points in an 11-2 run that closed the gap to one, 26-25, with five minutes left.
Arkansas responded with a 7-0 run with layups by Ashlea Williams and Brereton sandwiched around a Pfiefer three-pointer. Leading by eight again, the Lady’Backs faced another Gator run, this time from Sha Brooks. Her eight-point solo run tied the game at 33-33 with 1:11 left.
Brereton drained a deep three-pointer to return the lead to Arkansas. The Gators tried to go into halftime tied, but missed a pair of three-pointers before Bowden scooped up a long rebound and scored as the buzzer sounded to make the score 36-35.
Brereton led a balanced Arkansas attack with nine points as every Lady’Back that played scored except one. Arkansas had its best first half from the field in SEC play this season with 55.6% from the field.
Florida countered with 13 from Bowden and 10 by Brooks, but almost all of their respective points coming from their solo scoring spurts.
Pfeifer finished with a career high four three-point goals.
For the game, Arkansas shot 56% from the field while holding the Gators to only 45%. In the previous meeting, Florida scored 93 points.
The Lady’Backs return to Fayetteville for the first of a two-game regular season concluding homestand with Vanderbilt on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.