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Gators make early SEC exit

By DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Florida women's team got the bye it had been working for all season.

And after Friday, the Gators didn't want it anymore.

Florida was upset by Arkansas 78-69 in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Gators coach Carol Ross said the Razorbacks had a chance to build momentum in their first round win against Mississippi State.

"It's funny, we fight all January and all February to get a bye and then we complain that somebody gets to get a game under their belts," Ross said. "It's kind of a double-edged sword. Give credit to Arkansas for getting off to a good start."

Having a first-round bye may have shown during the first half.

The No. 2-seeded Gators got off to a slow start, falling behind 20-8 about halfway through the first half.

Guard Brandi McCain, Florida's leading scorer, went 5-for-14 from the field while hitting 2 of 7 from three-point range during the first half.

"Sometimes we had good looks at the basket and we just didn't finish and other times we would just shoot the ball away," senior Tombi Bell said.

Trailing by 16 at halftime, Florida went on two 11-0 runs in the second half.

But each time the No. 7-seed Razorbacks withstood the run.

"Coach just told us at halftime that the first five minutes would make the difference in the game," Arkansas' Lonniya Bragg said. "We just knew we would have to hold on."

One statistical category the Gators led was rebounding. They outrebounded Arkansas 57-33 and scored 31 second-chance points to the Razorbacks' two.

However, Florida turned the ball over 22 times and shot 32.9 percent from the field -- statistics that may have helped cost the Gators home court during the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"We need to play better, it doesn't matter if we are at home or in Saginaw, Michigan," Ross said. "We fought hard to get it, but we fought hard to get the No. 2 seed, and we didn't handle that opportunity very well."

NO. 6 GEORGIA 80, MISSISSIPPI 61: Coco Miller scored 17 and Kelly Miller added 14 as the Bulldogs reached the semifinals for the third year in a row. Third-seeded Georgia plays Arkansas tonight.

NO. 1 TENNESSEE 82, ALABAMA 52: Semeka Randall scored 16 as the Vols extended their winning streak to 18 games.

NO. 15 VANDERBILT 70, NO. 16 LSU 58: Jillian Danker scored 18, all on three-pointers, and Chantelle Anderson added 18 for the Commodores. Third-seeded Vanderbilt plays Tennessee in the semifinals today.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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