Florida guard Delicia Washington had been there before.
Fans of the Florida women’s basketball team could dream for the first three quarters on Sunday.
For the second time in a month, she had the ball in her hands in a tied game with just seconds remaining.
Washington calmly called a play from the top of the key off an offensive rebound. Forward Zada Williams set a pick.
Washington took a couple steps towards the basket with a handful of dribbles, then pulled up from just behind the free throw line.
For the second time in a month, she delivered.
Washington’s jumper gave UF a two-point lead with just 15 seconds left that it did not relinquish.
The Gators snapped a five-game losing streak with a 57-55 win over Alabama (11-12, 3-7 SEC) at the O’Connell Center.
“They were daring her to shoot tonight,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “They left her open top of the key, and she just made them pay for it.”
Unlike the January meeting between these teams in Tuscaloosa, when UF (6-17, 2-8 SEC) blew a 20-point lead and lost, Florida was the team playing from behind for most of the night on Thursday. After trailing 12-11 late in the first quarter, Alabama went on an 8-0 run and didn’t trail again until guard Funda Nakkasoglu drilled a three and put Florida ahead with just over five minutes left in the game.
With a little over two minutes left, Nakkasoglu – Florida’s leading scorer and lone bright spot for most of this season – drilled another three-pointer to put the Gators ahead by four. As the home crowd came to their feet and waved their promotional pom-poms, Nakkasoglu pumped her fist in the air.
That shot capped off a 20-point performance for the Australian. While she was probably the team’s MVP on the night, guard Danielle Rainey scored in double-digits for the third time in four games, and forward Kiara Smith registered 11 rebounds for the Gators.
“We just wanted it so bad,” Nakkasoglu said. “(The shots) finally went in in the fourth quarter, and we were ready for it.”
The teams were closely matched on the stat sheet for the most part. The biggest difference came in three-point shooting – it was a barrage from beyond the arc for the Gators, who went 10 for 31. Alabama was more subdued, going 3 of 13.
The Florida defense as a whole performed admirably, holding Alabama to just a 23 for 60 mark from the field and allowing its fourth-lowest point total of the season. UF also cut down on the turnovers, going from 24 against Kentucky in the last game to just 14 against Alabama.
“Constantly scraping and clawing to try to win the game,” Newbauer said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at [email protected].