The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
St. Pete Showcase - McArthur Center - Saint Petersburg, FL

Late comeback gives Gators overtime win over Houston

63 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Emma Bissell

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Florida women's basketball ended their stay at the St. Pete Showcase in dramatic fashion, using a last-minute comeback to force overtime and defeat Houston, 77-73, on the campus of Eckard College.

Trailing by six with 1:44 remaining in the game, the Gators (6-1, 0-0 SEC) needed near-perfection to take the game. Leilani Correa rose to the occasion, draining two free throws with 1:29 remaining to pull within four. After a quick Houston (1-5, 0-0 AAC) answer, KK Deans connected on a crucial and-one attempt to make it 65-62 with just 51 seconds on the clock.

Getting the defensive stop they needed, the Orange & Blue raced down the court and found Correa for an open triple, tying the game at 65 with 36 seconds remaining. The Cougars got to the rim and took advantage of an and-one of their own to regain a three-point lead, but it was again the senior, Correa, slicing through the lane and converting a three-point play the old-fashioned way with 12 second left to force overtime at 68-68.

Ra Shaya Kyle knocked-down two free throws to begin the overtime period to give the Gators a 70-68 advantage. Houston scored five-straight to regain a 73-70 lead, and that was all the Cougars would put up. After a play-of-the-game candidate put-back from Tatyana Wyche, the Gators won the free throw battle, securing a 77-73 victory.

Correa led the Florida offensive effort, putting up a season-high 24 points in addition to a season-best eight rebounds. Deans tallied 19 points for the Orange & Blue with Rickards also crossing the double-digit threshold, ending with 10. The Gators ended the afternoon shooting 26-of-61 (42.6%) from the floor and 5-of-15 (33.3%) from deep. Again, UF was strong at the charity stripe, connecting on 20-of-27 (74.1%) from the line.

The Gators assisted on 12 of their 26 made field goals, led by Deans' five on the afternoon. Florida was dominant on the glass, outrebounding the Cougars 55-35, including 16 on the offensive glass. Sophomore Jeriah Warren pulled-down a career-high 10 rebounds to lead the UF effort.

Defensively, Florida held Houston to 30-of-79 (38%) shooting from the field and just 6-of-25 (24%) from three-point range. The Cougars ended with 16 turnovers, resulting in 16 points for the Gators.

Houston raced-out to a 4-0 lead in the first, but the Gators would knot the game at four after Alberte Rimdal flew past defenders on her way into the paint for an easy lay-in. An offensive drought followed for Florida and Houston took advantage, using a 9-0 run to open up a 13-4 lead with 4:54 on the clock.

The teams exchanged buckets until Deans took over in the final two minutes, scoring the final nine points of the quarter, including an impressive spinning layup, to give Florida a 17-15 lead heading into the second frame.

Deans continued to make a difference, scoring the first bucket of the second before the Cougars got back-to-back buckets to take a 20-19 advantage. Rimdal drained a triple to give the Gators back the lead, 24-23, with 7:30 still to go, but again Houston put together an 8-0 run, giving the Cougars a 31-24 lead with 2:39 remaining. Ra Shaya Kyle closed the gap for the Gators, sinking a layup and and-one free throw with 20 second left to send the game into halftime with Houston on top, 31-27.

The Cougars extended their lead to five soon after the start of the third period and Faith Dut was ready to respond, battling for back-to-back layups to bring UF to within one. The third frame continued as a back-and-forth affair until the very end, when Rickards was fouled on a three-point attempt as time expired. The senior drained all three to give UF a 47-46 lead with the fourth quarter remaining.

Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley

On her thoughts regarding Saturday's game...
"That was a great, great win. Houston's record is not indicative of how tough of a team they are. We knew that coming into today, so this was, by no stretch of the imagination, a lack of performance on our behalf. You know, 30 turnovers is far too many, but I will say this, we've had back-to-back weeks with three games and we feel like this is going to prepare us come tournament time. It's going to make us better come conference season. I was really impressed with everybody's gritty performance when they maybe didn't feel the best. We've got some tired legs, I'm not going to lie."

On the play of Jeriah Warren and Tatyana Wyche off of the bench...
"That was big time, today was a big day of growth for Jeriah. We had to play her at the four quite a bit when Jordyn went down with her elbow and so I couldn't be more proud of her. The team is dancing and celebrating her in the locker room, they're talking about how that's the ability she has night-in and night-out. I've got to tell you Taty's (Tatyana Wyche) rebound for the tie-up there at the end of regulation, it might've been the play of the game outside of Leilani making that shot. In that last play, and the knockdown three, it was just great execution and good basketball."

On Correa's performance and the team's area of focus...
"That's who Leilani is. She's dependable, she's consistent, and to see her with eight rebounds as well, we knew the key to the game was going to be in our ability to rebound. We had to control what we could control. I didn't anticipate throwing the ball away quite so many times, but that's what happens. We controlled what we could and I was proud of our effort."

Notables
- With the victory on Saturday, Florida evened the all-time series with Houston at one.
- The 10 rebounds by Warren marked a career-best for the sophomore.
- The overtime game with Houston marked the first overtime outing since Jan. 9, 2022 at Texas A&M, when Florida defeated the Aggies, 97-89.
- Florida has also improved to 21-23 all-time in overtime games.
- With the win, the Gators finished the St. Pete Showcase undefeated, their first preseason tournament outing that ended in perfection since winning the Gator Holiday Classic in 2015-16.