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Close won't do for Bulls

Up nine early in the second half, USF looked poised for its first win against Florida in 17 years, but a late 18-5 run gave the Gators a 58-50 win Sunday and left the Bulls with the bitter taste of another near miss.

"We should have won. I think we're a better team, and I'll go ahead and say that," said USF coach Jose Fernandez, whose team took three-time defending national champion Connecticut to overtime in a loss last month. "We beat ourselves tonight. They didn't beat us."

Gators coach Carolyn Peck, whose team trailed most of the game but still beat the Bulls for the 14th time in a row, said that though USF is improving steadily, her players deserved the win.

"I think every coach has a high opinion of their team," she said. "I think that you had a winner today, and that was the Florida Gators. You might have good players, but the best team is the one that wins."

USF (10-4) hasn't won in Gainesville since 1987, a span of 16 losses, and the Bulls left with the hollow consolation of knowing that their previous 10 losses had been by double digits.

"I thought we played good enough defensively to win, but we can't play games (scoring) in the 40s and 50s. We're not that type of ballclub," said Fernandez, whose team went in averaging 70.8 points. "There were two times during this game where we really could have put the game away. We were up 14-6, then we don't score for the next (5{) minutes. You can't have that. Second half, we're up (nine). We did not capitalize when we had plenty of opportunities to put them away."

Each team saw its top player struggle offensively. USF sophomore forward Jessica Dickson, an Ocala native who had a large following in the O'Connell Center crowd of 923, went 4-of-18 from the field and finished with 14 points and five turnovers. Florida's Bernice Mosby, a Hernando graduate, had 13 points and 13 rebounds but shot 4-for-15 and had a team-high six turnovers.

It was Florida's supporting cast who put the game away. Mosby scored just one after the Gators (9-4) took the lead with 5:42 left. But reserve forward Dalila Eshehad seven of her nine points in the final three minutes, and forward Tamia Williams gave the Gators the lead at 41-40 and hit a key 3-pointer with 4:32 left.

USF turned to its bench for 13 total minutes, with three starters playing all 40. Only two Florida starters went more than 33 minutes, and Peck said her bench production was a key advantage in the closing minutes. Florida outrebounded the Bulls 28-17 in the second half, with three offensive rebounds on one possession that lasted more than a minute.

"I think our team came out with more heart in the second half, more determination, more aggressiveness," Mosby said. "Everybody just came out crashing the boards. I think it was effort."

The Bulls hit just one of their first 14 3-point attempts, finishing 3-of-20, with point guard Anedra Gilmore scoring a game-high 15 despite going 0-for-6 beyond the arc.

"It was a tough loss, and I think we're going to learn from this," said forward Ezria Parsons, who went scoreless, missing her five attempts, but finished with half of USF's 10 assists.