GAINESVILLE, Fla. ‚Äî Erika Ford poured in a career-high 23 points to lead four Lady Bulldogs in double figures as Georgia rallied past Florida, 68-62, at the Stephen C. O‚ÄôConnell Center on Sunday afternoon.
Khaalidah Miller added 13 points, Shacobia Barbee chipped in 12 and Krista Donald added 10 for Georgia (14-5, 2-4 SEC). Jaterra Bonds paced Florida (13-5, 3-2 SEC) with 16 points.
The Lady Bulldogs outscored the Gators 15-9 in the game‚Äôs waning moments.
‚ÄúWe talked about that with about two-three minutes remaining,‚Äù head coach Andy Landers said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been in that position before. We‚Äôve been in that position in our first two SEC road games at Vanderbilt and Missouri. Both of those were winnable games but we didn‚Äôt play well enough down the stretch. Today, hopefully, we grew up some.‚Äù
Georgia, which ranks last in the SEC in free throw percentage, shot a season-best 88.9 percent from the charity stripe. The Lady Bulldogs connected on 16-of-18 free throws, including 11-of-12 in the final 5:34 after the game was tied 53-53.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about time,‚Äù Landers quippped. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre a good free throw shooting team in practice. We just haven‚Äôt trusted our stroke in games. It was nice to see us step up with confidence and shoot them like we seem to do in practice on a regular basis.‚Äù
Georgia rallied from a halftime deficit for the fourth time this season to improve to 4-3 in those contests. In fact, the Lady Bulldogs trailed the entire first half on Sunday.
Florida scored the game‚Äôs first seven points over the opening 1:25 and maintained a comfortable lead for most of the remainder of the period.
‚ÄúFlorida jumped us and we didn‚Äôt really respond well,‚Äù Landers said.
The Gators pushed their advantage to double figures for the first time 22-12 on a Bonds layup at the 7:32 mark.
A putback by Halle Washington and a 3-pointer by Donald closed the gap to 24-20 at the 2:30 mark, but Florida responded quickly and pushed the lead to 30-20 just 44 seconds later. The Lady Bulldogs scored the final four points of the period and entered the locker room trailing 30-24.
Georgia got within two points four times in the second half before finally knotting the score at 43-43 on a Donald jumper with 10:52 left. Florida regained a 47-43 lead 1:22 later before a Barbee layup and a Miller 3-pointer game the Lady Bulldogs their first lead at 49-48.
The lead changed hands three times, lastly on a Ford layup at the 7:26 mark that put Georgia up 50-49. The Gators tied the score at 53-53 before Merritt Hempe hit two free throws to open the Lady Bulldogs‚Äô decisive surge.
The Lady Bulldogs will enjoy an update this Thursday before traveling to Tuscaloosa next Sunday to face Alabama at 3:00 p.m. in a CSS regionally televised match-up.