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Imbalanced Gators fall to Washington

By the time UF puts an attack together, the clock and the Huskies are too much to overcome.

The Florida women's basketball team fell behind early, trailed by 15 at halftime and couldn't overcome the deficit in its 86-75 season-ending loss to Washington on Sunday at the O'Connell Center.

Florida guard Brandi McCain had 23 points and four rebounds to lead the Gators, but they were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

McCain was 8-of-29 from the field. By the time she got hot midway through the second half, Florida trailed by 19.

Senior guard Tombi Bell added 12 points and three rebounds, but the Gators did not get enough from their inside players. Forward Naomi Mobley, who had 16 points and 20 rebounds Friday night, did not extend her streak of five post-season games with a double double. She finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

"Any team that hopes to survive in this tournament had better have balance," UF coach Carol Ross said prior to the matchup. "Because our guards are extremely talented and get a lot of publicity, people look at those strengths and think the rest must be weaknesses, but that's not the case and it never has been."

Guard Megan Franza led the Huskies to a 13-8 lead during the first four minutes. Franza made a three-pointer and followed it with consecutive baskets. Washington started the game with three three-pointers, two from Andrea Lalum.

Freshman Giuliana Mendiola led Washington with 18 points, but nobody came through bigger than Lalum, a freshman, who finished with 14.

Washington went (on) a 9-0 run midway through the first half, capped when Florida center Vanessa Hayden was called for a foul on a three-point basket by Emily Autrey. The four-point play put UW up 26-16.

During the 51-36 first half, Washington used 11 players, four more than UF. McCain and Bell played the entire game.

"We just try to use our quickness to our advantage," Bell said. "We're not really big, as you can see. That's all we try to do, outquick them and hopefully play a little smarter than they do."

UF was unable to cut into the deficit at the start of the second half but eventually put together a 7-2 run keyed by consecutive McCain three-pointers.

Foul trouble plagued UF at the end, as Hayden fouled out with about two minutes to play.

After pulling within 73-69, Florida missed five straight shots and started sending the Huskies to the free-throw line, where they hit 11 of 15 down the stretch.

Washington advanced to the second round by virtue of a last-second shot by Payne for the win. And those emotions would be enough to carry the Huskies.

"We knew that Florida was pretty good, and after our game we went out and watched them and it got our emotion out of us," UW sophomore Loree Payne said.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.