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Washington tops Florida with emotion

Huskies say last-second win in opener carried over in an 86-75 second-round victory.

Senior guard Tombi Bell did her best to make sure Sunday night's game in the O'Connell Center would not be her last.

But Bell, the emotional leader of the Florida women's team, would not be able to lead the Gators past Washington. The Huskies won the NCAA Tournament West Region game 86-75.

The Gators, supposedly motivated by missing the NCAA Tournament last season, were eliminated in the second round.

"The bottom line is, we lost," Bell said. "It doesn't matter how close we came. A loss is a loss. The way this goes is if you lose, you're out. We lost and we're out. The bottom line is we are not going to advance."

Forward Naomi Mobley, who had 16 points and 20 rebounds on Friday night, did not extend her post-season streak of five double doubles. She finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

Washington guard Megan Franza made a three-pointer and followed it with consecutive baskets to lead the Huskies to a 13-8 advantage after four minutes.

The Huskies withstood a 9-0 run by the Gators during the middle of the first half and led 51-36 at halftime.

"It came to a situation where we had to dig ourselves out of a pretty big hole," Florida coach Carol Ross said.

Washington held its lead early in the second half, but the Gators continued to battle and were rewarded with a run that cut the deficit to nine with nearly 10 minutes left.

Florida kept chipping away and cut it to 73-69 late. But Florida then missed five straight shots, and started sending the Huskies to the free-throw line. Washington made 11 of 15 down the stretch to seal its trip to the Sweet 16.

Brandi McCain led the Gators with 23 points, but shot just 8-for-29 (7-for-26 from three-point range) as part of the team's 34 percent shooting night. By the time McCain got hot, midway through the second half, Florida trailed by 19.

Freshman Giuliana Mendiola led Washington with 18 points, and fellow freshman Andrea Lalum, who converted two early three-pointers and four key baskets down the stretch, had 14.

Washington won its opener on a last-second shot by Loree Payne. That energy carried over.

"I thought that it really brought a lot of emotion to this team," Payne said. "That carried over to tonight's game. We knew that we had a really tough opponent."

Bell finished the night and her career at Florida with 12 points and 4 rebounds. She fouled out with 33 seconds left and cried as the fans gave her a standing ovation.

"I am a little disappointed," Bell said. "We are normally a team that can fight back, but we weren't able to this time.

"At the end, I kept trying to cheer the girls on. A lot of times they follow my lead even when I am not on the court."

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