Florida loses George, another game vs. Lady Vols
(AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jennifer George fell to the floor in pain, her right arm limp as trainers rushed to her side.
She gingerly walked to the locker room a few minutes later and never returned.
Florida wasn't the same without its leading scorer and lone senior, but still nearly good enough to beat No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday.
Meighan Simmons scored 27 points, Bashaara Graves added 17 points and 15 rebounds, and the ninth-ranked Lady Vols held off the Gators 78-75 in overtime.
Tennessee (13-3, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) snapped Florida's 15-game, home-winning streak and won for the 44th time in 48 meetings.
Losing George could be a much more significant setback.
George dislocated her right shoulder in the first half and spent the second half on the bench. Coach Amanda Butler said it was a doctor's decision to keep George out. She had eight points, two rebounds and two assists.
"That's one of the areas that give our team great confidence," Butler said. "We're not a one-woman team. Although Jennifer is one of the best players in this league, we showed that our balance is legit."
Jaterra Bonds led Florida (13-5, 2-2) with 18 points. January Miller and Carlie Needles chipped in 11 each.
The Gators have a week off before playing again, an opportunity for George to get healthy.
No doubt, though, she was missed against the Lady Vols.
"I thought that was huge," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "She's physical, she's strong, she's a big-time player. To lose her was huge. Credit to them, it didn't seem like they let up. I think it would have been a great help for them if she would have been in."
Simmons and Graves were a huge help for Tennessee, which won its sixth consecutive game.
Simmons made 11 of 23 shots, including 7 of 12 in the first half, and hit four 3-pointers. Graves was clutch down the stretch.
After injuring her neck late in regulation, Graves returned and made a free throw that tied the game at 70 with 12.6 seconds remaining in regulation. She hit two from the charity stripe with 8.4 seconds left in overtime, forcing the Gators to take a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Kayla Lewis' shot clanged off the front of the rim.
Florida battled back from a nine-point deficit in the second half and took the lead on Miller's jumper in the lane with 29 seconds remaining. But Graves drew a foul on the other end and then calmly sent the game into overtime. The Gators failed to get off a shot in the final possession of regulation.
Even stranger was Florida's decision to foul with 25 seconds left in the extra frame of a tie game.
Butler ordered her team to send Kamiko Williams to the line. Williams, a 64-percent free-throw shooter, put Tennessee ahead for good with the first of two.
"It was a calculated risk," Butler said. "It was a bad decision. I make a lot of bad decisions. If I had it to do over again, I would trust our defense."
Still, the Gators had chances.
Christin Mercer missed two free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining.
Those kinds of mistakes are usually costly against Tennessee, which has won eight in a row in the lopsided series.
"This team is not satisfied by losing by three to Tennessee in overtime," Butler said. "It is not OK. We are not a team that is ever going to be OK with a loss by any margin anywhere. ... We're growing, we're on a journey, it's a process and this is a step in it. It's a painful step in our process, but a great showing isn't what we're after."
"We won't come up short next time," Needles said.
Updated January 13, 2013