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    Florida Defeats Auburn

    2012 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament
    Game 1: #8 Florida 70, #9 Auburn 60

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    Nashville, Tenn. -- Jordan Jones (Suwanee, Ga.) scored 17 points, Jennifer George (Orlando, Fla.) posted her 15th double-double of the season and the University of Florida earned a 70-60 victory against Auburn in the first round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

    The eighth-seeded Gators (19-11) advanced to play top-seeded and No. 10/9-ranked Kentucky (24-5) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT. The game will be televised by FSN and will air on FS Florida throughout the state of Florida. The radio broadcast of the game can be heard live in Gainesville on WBXY-FM 99.5 “The Star,” with live streaming audio available through www.GatorZone.com, the official website of the Florida Gators. Live streaming video of the game will be provided on www.ESPN3.com, but is subject to blackout in states with an SEC school.

    On Thursday, George scored the first points of the entire four-day event with a short jumper inside en route to a 12-point, 14-rebound effort to extend her SEC-leading double-double total. George was one rebound shy of her career high on the boards, as Florida outrebounded Auburn, 48-41, during the game, with 24 rebounds coming on the offensive end. Senior point guard Lanita Bartley (Jacksonville, Fla.) pulled down eight boards to go along with 13 points, while Azania Stewart (Wood Green, England) finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots that included the 300 th block of her career. Stewart became just the third Gator to block as many, joining Vanessa Hayden (357 blocks, 2000-04) and Quientella Bonner (230 blocks, 1976-81).

    Florida used a 10-0 run midway through the first half that provided some breathing room after the first seven and half minutes of the game were fairly even, although the Gators never relinquished their lead at any point during the conest. Jones scored five points during the run that included her converting a three-pointer in her 13th consecutive game, the ninth-longest streak in program history. Madu started the run with a pair of free throws, while Stewart hit an inside jumper and George followed with one free throw that resulted in a 25-13 Gator lead with 4:03 remaining in the first half.

    Florida’s lead dipped to nine points after Tyrese Tanner, who finished with a game-high 20 points, nailed a three-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded and the Gators took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. George had already compiled 10 points and nine rebounds for Florida, which shot 34.2 percent (13-38) in the first half and 35.4 percent for the game.

    Auburn’s Blanche Alverson scored 12 of the Tiger’s 25 first half points, finishing with 16 in the game along with a team-best seven rebounds.

    The teams traded scores to start the second half before Florida, which held a nine-point lead, used a 10-1 run that included three-pointers from Jones and Bartley and helped the Gators assume a 46-28 advantage with 14:47 remaining.

    Both teams answered each others scores and mini-runs again, but Auburn kept chipping away and cut Florida’s lead to 11 points, 57-46, with 6:59 remaining. Florida responded with two free throws from Deana Allen (Houma, La.), but the Tigers were playing hard for coach Nell Fortner, who announced she would retire at the end of the season, and continued to battle, eventually clawing to within eight points a few times, the last coming with 1:33 remaining.

    The Gators stepped up down the stretch from the free throw line, where in several games throughout the year they had struggled, and converted 9-of-11 in the final 1:44 to seal the victory.

    “I was proud of the way we played collectively because it’s hard to keep playing hard when you’re not playing as perfect as you want to,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining our composure, the push at the end, stepping up to the free throw line and having a lot of poise and knocking down those ones that really kept them from really getting in striking distance.”

    Florida next faces a Kentucky team that won both regular season meetings against the Gators by a combined eight points, earning the 59-56 decision in Gainesville on January 1 and the 57-52 outcome in Lexington on January 22. The Wildcats, who captured their first SEC title in 30 years, have won four straight against the Gators, with each of the last three decided by five points or less. UK has won five of the last six decisions, as well as seven of the last nine against UF.

    “They were close,” Butler said of the two regular season games against Kentucky. “A couple possessions here and there. We know we’re going to have to handle their pressure, be ready not to back down. I’m sure we’re going to watch a lot of film tonight, so it will be an exciting game tomorrow.”

    2012 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament
    Game 1 – Thursday, March 1 – 12:00 p.m.
    #9 Auburn vs. #8 Florida

    AUBURN NOTES

    •    Auburn is now 13-17 overall, 34-29 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
    •    Freshman guard Hasina Muhammad scored a career-high 20 points, all in the second half.
    •    This marked the sixth time this season Muhammad led the Tigers in points and the second consecutive game.
    •    Junior guard Blanche Alverson scored 16 points, but just four in the second half.
    •    This was the 13 game this season that Alverson scored in double-figures.
    •    Muhammad and Alverson were joined in double-figures by sophomore guard Tyrese Turner, who had 10 points.
    •    Muhammad also led Auburn in rebounds for the fourth time this season with a career-high nine, set a new career-high in blocks with four and tied her career-high for field goal attempts with 19.
    •    Auburn won the bench scoring battle 28-15.

    FLORIDA NOTES

    •    Florida is now 19-11 on the season, 17-31 all-time in the SEC Tournament and will advance to play Kentucky in Game 5 Friday at Noon.
    •    The Gators now trail the all-time series with Auburn 17-32, including 2-7 all-time in the SEC Tournament and 2-0 this season.
    •    Junior forward Jennifer George scored the first basket of the 2012 SEC Tournament with a jumper at the 19:48 mark of the opening half.
    •    Following George’s basket, the teams were twice tied, but Florida never trailed. 
    •    George scored 12 points and 14 rebounds for 15th double-double of the season and 19th of her career. It was the 22nd time this season she scored in double-figures, 38th for her career and the 15th time she has had double-figure rebounds this season.
    •    Senior guard Jordan Jones hit a three-pointer for the 13th consecutive game and for the 27th time in 30 games this season. She scored a team-high 17 points and finished 3-7 from beyond the arc. This was the 15th time she scored in double-figures this season, 64th time in her career.
    •    Jones was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line, giving her 103 made free throws in her Florida career.
    •    Senior guard Lanita Bartley scored 13 points, her 15th game in double-figures this season, 25th for her career. She also had eight rebounds, bringing her to 300 career rebounds.
    •    Senior center Azania Stewart scored 10 points, her fifth game with 10+ points this season, breaking the 750-point plateau for her career.
    •    Stewart had three blocks, bringing her career total to 200.
    •    Florida had four players in double-figures for the fifth time this season, but just the second time in SEC play.
    •    Florida led by nine points at the half, and used an 11-3 run over the first 4:10 of the second half to extend the margin.
    •    The Gators are 17-1 when leading at the half.  
    •    Senior forward Ndidi Madu set a new career-high with five made free throws, and toed a career-high with six attempts from the line.
    •    Florida won the rebounding battle, 48-41 and points off turnovers 20-8.