Tough First Half Costs Gators Against Tennessee

Senior Ronni Williams scored a game-high 31 points, but the Gator’s first-half defense came back to haunt them, as Florida dropped an 84-75 decision to Tennessee at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Thursday evening.

The Lady Vols used an 18-2 run over a 4:34 span in the first quarter and built a 23-6 lead with 3:03 remaining in the first period. During that march, Florida made just 1-of-8 field goals and committed three turnovers that were immediately converted into easy buckets.

While the Gators were seemingly down, they were certainly not ready to fold and regrouped to score the final nine points of the quarter and trailed just 27-19 after the initial 10 minutes.

Williams scored the first four points of the second quarter and had the Gators back within four, 27-23.

Alexa Middleton halted UF’s 13-0 run with one of UT’s seven three-pointers during the game and began a 7-0 swing for the visitors, who took a double-digit lead.

Haley Lorenzen, who finished with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, canned UF’s only three-pointer of the game, but Middleton came right back with one for the Vols, as UT took a 48-34 halftime lead.

Florida outscored Tennessee, 41-36, in the second half and even cut its deficit to eight points with 3:24 reaming and to within six points, 81-75, with 16 seconds remaining, however, the Lady Vols, closed out the game at the free throw line, converting 3-of-4 the rest of the way, capping a solid effort of 27-of-35 from the line during the game.

Let’s Go to the Video Tape

Updated Records:

  • Florida: 10-10, 1-6 SEC
  • Tennessee: 13-7, 4-3 SEC

Double-Digit Gators

  • Ronni Williams: 31 points (10-18 FG, 11-13 FT) – more on Williams below
  • Haley Lorenzen:  17 points (8-14 FG), game-high 11 rebounds (15th double-figure scoring game this year, 33rd in career; fourth double-double of season and career)
  • Tyshara Fleming: 13 points (6-7 FG), 10 rebounds (eighth double-figure scoring game this year, 12th in career; second double-double of season and career)

Double-Digit Lady Vols

  • Diamond DeShields: 27 points (9-13 FG, 8-11 FT)
  • Jaime Nared: 16 points (4-13 FG, 3-4 3FG)
  • Mercedes Russell: 14 pts, (4-8 FG, 6-8 FT)
  • Jordan Reynolds: 11 points (2-7 FG, 7-8 FT), 9 rebounds
  • Alexa Middleton: 11 points (4-8 FG, 3-5 3FG)

Spotlight on Senior Ronni Williams

  • Scored a game-high 31 points (10-18 FG, 11-13 FT)
  • The 31 points are the second-most scored in her career; just three shy of the 34 against Southeastern Louisiana, Dec. 28, 2016
  • Moved into 18th place on UF’s all-time scoring list, passing the 1,257 points scored by Jennifer George (2009-13)
  • Scored at least 20 points for the ninth time this season; 10th time in career
  • 16th double-figure scoring game in 20 games this year
  • 67th game in double-figure scoring
  • Fourth consecutive game in double-figures
  • Started the 75th game of her career, 39th straight
  • Picked up her fourth personal foul with 7:12 remaining in third quarter; had 20 points (9-15 FG), 3 rebounds at that time
  • There have been 18 Gators who have scored 30+ points in a game. Williams became one of only eight who have multiple 30-point games (Merlakia Jones, Tonya Washington, Tammy Jackson, Murriel Page, Vanessa Hayden, Brandi McCain, DeLisha Milton)

Worth Noting

  • Florida dominating the rebound effort, 42-30, with 21 coming on the offensive end.
  • Five of the last six meetings in the series between Florida and Tennessee have been decided by single digits.
  • Florida is 2-5 in games decided by 10 points or less this season, including 1-3 in SEC games.
  • Tennessee hit 27-of-35 free throws; Florida was 12-17 from the line
  • Florida converted six more field goals, but UT hit six more three-pointers

Individual Numbers of Note

  • Tyshara Fleming scored her 300th career point
  • Freshman Sydney Morang earned the first start of her career
  • Dyandria Anderson dished the 150th assist of her career
  • Freshman Delicia Washington collected her 100th career rebound
  • Haley Lorenzen scored in her 80th consecutive game (every game of her career)

Frontcourt Foul

  • Starting frontcourt mates Ronni Williams and Haley Lorenzen both collected their fourth personal fouls during the third quarter, with 7:12 remaining and 4.7 seconds to go, respectively.

See Ya’ Real Soon

  • This was the first of two meetings this season between the Gators and Lady Vols.
  • The teams will meet again in Knoxville on Thurs., February 23.

Quotes from the Court:

Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler

Opening Statement:

“I was really disappointed in our first half. That was the story of the game for us. We fully expected them to come out and start very quickly, that’s part of what they do. We didn’t have great defensive execution in the first half, didn’t do a great job of marking shooters and getting our hands up. When you don’t do that, good teams are going to take advantage of it.

“The second half is what we are and who we are. We battled, we fought, we had people contributing in a lot of different ways other than just trying to score and that’s the heart of our team – I’ll do whatever it takes to do what’s best for my team. I think we saw the spirit and that energy. We had some fantastic individual performances. Obviously, Ronni (Williams), and then Haley (Lorenzen) and Tyshara (Fleming) both with a double-double. I know that those things don’t matter to those guys. They’d much rather have a win.”

On Ronni Williams’ play:

“Ronni’s leadership and her selflessness and doing whatever the team needs in the moment – weather it’s fouling to stop the clock, running the point or keep going hard to the rim knowing that she was going to get fouled over and over again. She’s a just model example of what a senior looks like, what a competitor looks like and what a pro athlete looks like.”

Tennessee Head Coach ​Holly Warlick

Opening Statement:

“Well, honestly I feel like I played. Great win for us. I thought we were resilient. We didn’t play a perfect game, but we got it done when we need to. People stepped up, and I thought Diamond DeShields had a great game for us. She got great looks, and was a strong leader there. For them, Ronni Williams was just exceptional tonight; she was just awesome. We didn’t have too much of an answer for her. But Florida battles, that’s what they do. We knew it was going to be a fight. These are two teams that I think are very similar in how we play. But we got the W on a Thursday night, so we’re happy.”

On finding a way to win:

“You know, we made some mistakes, but we stayed pretty tough and pretty solid, and that’s what you’ve got to do. Again, we didn’t play our best game, but we got the win. And we needed it. We needed a win on the road. We were concerned because of who Florida is and how hard they play, so we’ll take it. I can’t recall us giving up 21 offensive rebounds since I’ve been at Tennessee as an assistant and head coach, but we did and we will go back and work on that. Again, we were just real resilient and we found a way to win. I’m really pleased with the end result and how different people stepped up, because we needed everybody’s help.”

What’s Next for the Gators

  • Who: Vanderbilt (11-10, 1-7 SEC) – defeated Alabama, 87-80, on Thursday
  • Where: Memorial Gym * Nashville, Tenn.
  • When: Sunday, January 29 at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT

Gator Pronunciations for this Release:

  • DYANDRIA Anderson: dee-ANN-dree-uh
  • TYSHARA Fleming: tie-SHEER-uh
  • Sydney MORANG: mur-RANG (like meringue pie)
  • DELICIA Washington: duh-LEE-shuh

SOCIAL: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram