GAINESVILLE, FL (astateredwolves.com) – Arkansas State had four players score in double-figures and led by double-digits midway through the third quarter, but Florida rallied and handed the Red Wolves a 76-72 defeat Monday night at the O’Connell Center.
A-State held a 12 point lead with 5:31 to go in the third quarter, but the Gators went a 12-0 run that spanned four minutes to regain the lead and held on late to hand the Red Wolves their second loss of the non-conference season.
“We had a couple of chances to fold, one at the start of the game and another late in the game, but this team has shown the ability to fight through some things and comeback,” A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. “I thought we handled their pressure well and took care of some other keys to the game, but we let them get to the free throw line, which was one of the keys, and it may have hurt us in the end.”
Arkansas State (4-2) appeared to be in control in the third quarter after using a 14-2 run to go up 51-39 with 5:31 left in the period. Jessica Flanery sparked the run with a 3-pointer, while Khadija Brown-Haywood followed with a ‘3’ of her own to make the score 45-37, and prompted a Florida timeout.
Brown-Haywood tied a career-high with 21 points. She added eight rebounds and also had a four steals.
Flanery continued the run with another 3-pointer off an Amanda Lawson steal and Aundrea Gamble finished off the string of five straight treys at the 5:31 mark to give the Red Wolves their largest lead of the night.
Gamble finished with 20 points, while Flanery added 11, including three, 3-pointers. Brittney Gill was also in double-figures for A-State with 10 points, while adding eight rebounds.
Florida (7-1) went on a run of its own and scored 12 unanswered to retake a 53-52 lead with 24 seconds to go in the third quarter. A-State went 0-9 from the field during the run and also had three turnovers during the four-plus minute drought.
Gill tied the game at 55-55 with a steal and score to start the fourth quarter, but the Gators scored five straight to go up 60-55 with 8:40 to go in the game. A-State cut the lead to 64-63 after a layup by Lawson with 5:03 left and then tied the game at 70-70 with 1:26 remaining, but the Gators scored four straight and the Red Wolves were unable to overcome the deficit.
Florida finished the game 19-of-23 from the foul line, while the Red Wolves were just 5-of-9 from the charity stripe.
“There were a handful of keys to this game and that was one of them,” Boyer said. “We knew they averaged 22 free throws a game and they got to that. It is a part of their game and they are good at it. You have to stay disciplined on them and for the most part we did, but we did have lapses that certainly cost us.”
The Red Wolves trailed by as many as eight with two minutes to go in the first quarter, which promoted Boyer to take a timeout. Coming out of the timeout Brown-Haywood knocked down a pair of free throws, got a steal and layup on the ensuing inbounds play and scored again when Brittney Gill got a steal and passed it ahead to the fellow senior to get the Red Wolves with 15-11 with 54.4 seconds to go.
The 6-0 run by Brown-Haywood was part of a 15 point first half, nine of which came in the first quarter including a layup with 15 seconds left in the opening period to get the Red Wolves within 17-13 after 10 minutes.
The Red Wolves used a 7-0 run in the second quarter to build a 22-19 lead with 6:27 after a 3-pointer and a jumper inside the key by Jessica Flanery. Florida took the lead back after a 3-pointer, but A-State was able to answer and tie the game at 28-28 with less than five minutes to go in the half.
Brittany Fowler tied the game at 31-31 with a 3-pointer with 2:07 to go in the half, and the team two teams traded baskets to go into the break tied at 31-31.
A-State returns home Saturday Dec. 12 when it hosts Alcorn State at the Convocation Center. The game is set to begin at 5:05 p.m.