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Never say die

Arizona rallies from 17 down to defeat Florida in overtime

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Posted: Friday March 12, 1999 10:37 PM

  Arizona's Reshea Bristol forces overtime with her last-second shot Friday night. AP

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- In a year in which Arizona has overcome youth, a slow start, academic problems and injuries, why not a 17-point, second-half deficit in the NCAA tournament?

LaKeisha Taylor put in a rebound with 30 seconds to play in overtime and Arizona staged three rallies in the final 16 minutes to defeat Florida 87-84 in the first round of the Midwest Regional on Friday night.

"'I like to win but I don't like to get a heart attack," said Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini, whose team will play the winner of the game between third-seeded Rutgers and 14th seeded Dartmouth. That second-round game will be played on Sunday night.

The never-say-die Wildcats (18-10) scored the final eight points in overtime and got a buzzer-beating layup from Reshea Bristol at the end of regulation in ending the season for Florida (19-14).

Angela Lackey capped a career-high, 29-point performance by hitting two free throws with 11.2 seconds to push the Wildcats lead to three.

Tonya Washington, who led Florida with 23 points, put up an air-ball from 3-point range at the buzzer as the Gators lost for the fifth time in six games.

"I don't know if it slipped away, I give Arizona credit for taking it away" Florida coach Carol Ross said.

Bristol added 20 points and Taylor and Felicity Willis, who was in foul trouble all game, had 12 apiece for sixth-seeded Arizona of the Pacific 10.

Tiffany Travis added 20 points, Tamara Stocks had 14 and Brandi McCain 10 and nine assists for 11th-seeded Florida, one of eight SEC teams in the tournament.

The Gators appeared to have the game in hand several times, the last time when Stocks hit a free throw for an 84-79 lead with 3:05 left in overtime.

Lackey and Bristol closed the gap to a point with two free throws apiece in the next minute. Florida was still clinging to a one-point lead and had the ball when McCain and fellow guard Tombi Bell bumped in the front court with about 40 seconds to play.

Arizona got the loose ball and went on a fast break. Bristol missed the layup but Taylor put in the rebound. Lackey then iced the Wildcats' ninth victory in 11 games.

"Angie played with a lot more confidence today," Willis said.

The comeback was the third of the game for Arizona. It used a 22-4 spurt to rally from a 17-point, second-half deficit with less than 11 minutes to play, and it then rallied from five down with 1:13 left in regulation.

Florida had a couple of chances to put the game away in the closing seconds but a couple missed free throws and several big plays by Bristol kept the Wildcats alive.

Leading 75-72 with 16.6 seconds left in regulation, Bell made one of two free throws after being fouled by Willis, who fouled out on the play.

Arizona rushed the ball upcourt and Bristol nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 76-75 with 8.9 seconds to play.

McCain was fouled quickly after taking the inbounds pass. An 81-percent shooter from the line, the freshman got two shots because Arizona was over the 10-foul limit. She missed the first and made the second.

Point guard Lisa Griffith dribbled the ball upcourt and went under the basket where she found Bristol cutting in from the left wing for a layup at the buzzer.

"'We could have won in regulation if we hit our free throws," said Ross, whose team was 10 for 21 from the free throw line compared to Arizona's 19 of 22.

"We turned the ball over at critical times, we had a little indecision at the end of the game, not having someone step up with confidence and shoot the ball."

The Gators appeared to break the game open with a 13-4 spurt for a 63-46 lead with just under 11 minutes to play.

However, the Wildcats scored 22 of the next 26 points and took a 68-67 lead on a driving layup with 3:41 to go by Willis.

"We play in spurts," Bonvicini said. "We need to increase the intensity to get turnovers and make it a full-court game. That's what happened, we started to get baskets in transition. We chipped away, chipped away and that changed the confidence level in Florida."

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