Gators Fall to Utah in Opening Round of Duel in the Desert

The University of Florida women’s basketball team dropped a 74-58 decision to the Utah Utes Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Duel in the Desert at Cox Pavilion.

Florida featured a balanced scoring attack and shot it effectively all game long, but couldn’t hold off the Utes who move to 10-0 on the season.

Zada Williams came off the bench to lead the Gators with 14 points while freshman Kristina Moore added a career-best 12 points including a pair of three-pointers. Altogether nine Gators scored in the contest which tied a season high.

The Gators executed an effective offensive game plan, hitting 47 percent of their shots overall including 61 percent of their two-point field goals. UF, known for its three-point shooting, brought the game inside and finished with 36 points in the paint, its second-highest total of the season. Williams was especially effective on the pick and roll and converted seven of her nine shots attempts in the game.

UF trailed by just seven at 54-47 heading into the fourth but Utah pulled away outscoring the Gators 20-11 in the final stanza.

Utah, one of 13 undefeated teams in the nation, featured a quartet of double-figure scorers led by Megan Huff’s 21 points.

After Paige Robinson opened the game’s scoring with a layup, the Gators saw Utah record 12-straight points to jump out to an early edge. UF fought back by outscoring Utah 16-14 the rest of the first quarter and it trailed 26-18 after 10 minutes had expired. Williams was a major factor in the early going, tallying eight points in the first quarter alone. Both teams came out of the gate strong, shooting above 55 percent in the opening period.

In the second Utah continued to shoot it well, connecting on 8-of-14 field goals, while Florida converted on 5-of-13. The Utes led at the break, 44-33.

Florida battled back in the third quarter, outscoring the Utes 14-10. The Gators ramped up the defensive intensity, limiting Utah to just 23 percent shooting in the frame and closed the third on a 6-2 scoring spurt to shrink the Utes’ lead to just 54-47 heading into the fourth.

In the fourth, Florida would catch fire from three-point range, draining triples on three-straight possessions but it wasn’t enough as the Utes held the Gators scoreless for the final two minutes and to just 11 points overall in the quarter. 

Delicia Washington added six points and six boards for Florida while freshman guard Ariel Johnson registered six points and dished out three assists in her first career collegiate start.

Florida concludes play at the Duel in the Desert when it takes on UNLV in the Rebel Division consolation round Friday, Dec. 21. Tip off is slated for 3 p.m. ET time from Cox Pavilion as the Gators battle the Lady Rebels.


  • Florida falls to 1-1 all time against Utah with both matchups occurring at neutral site venues.
  • There are just 13 remaining undefeated teams in NCAA Division I and Florida has faced two of them in Utah and Indiana.
  • Utah was the fifth team Florida faced that was undefeated heading into the matchup.
  • Florida shot 61.5 percent in the first quarter, a season best field goal percentage in an opening quarter.
  • Florida finished the game shooting 46.9 percent from the floor, its second-best shooting game of the season (Mercer, 47.4 percent)
  • The Gators tallied 33 first half points which tied a season best (Northwestern and Indiana).
  • Florida’s bench outscored Utah’s reserves, 21-12.
  • Nine Florida players scored in the game, tying a season high (Northwestern).
  • For just the second time this season, six Gators finished with six or more points.
  • Kristina Moore finished with a career-high 12 points (4-of-6 shooting).
  • The Gators added 12 assists against Utah after finishing with five at Ohio State in the previous game.
  • Florida falls to 3-4 all time in the state of Nevada.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

On the team’s overall performance
“I thought we fought hard. That’s a good a team over there and you can see how they are undefeated. I’m really proud of our kids and how hard we played throughout the whole game.”

On Zada Williams success early in the pick and roll
“We did a good job sharing the ball and Zada was very good at screening and sprinting to the basket. Utah’s defense was focused on taking away Funda which opened things up for us. In the second half we didn’t get as many looks as we would have liked off this action.”

On the team’s defense in the third quarter
“We did a good job with our team defense and communicating and boxing out when we had to.”

On the team’s offensive struggles in the fourth quarter
“It is frustrating but it is something you have to fight through and get better at. When teams slow you down like that you just have to execute your offense better. We are a young team and being able to battle through adversity like that comes from maturity.”

SOCIAL: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram