Gators Involved in Another SEC Thriller

Senior Paulina Hersler tied her career with 19 points to lead the Gators offensively in another tough Southeastern Conference tangle. Florida, however, came up just short in a 56-53 setback to Kentucky on Thursday at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

There were eight lead changes and three tied scores in the thriller that marked Florida’s eighth game this season decided by 10 points or less, with three of those coming in league play.

Dyandria Anderson scored 10 points with five assists, while Haley Lorenzen added nine points with a game-high 10 rebounds.

How It Happened

The Gators overcame an early nine-point deficit and rallied for a seven-point lead with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter, as Florida drilled its first five three-point attempts of the second half to take the 33-26 edge.

The team went back and forth for the remainder of the third and Florida held a 39-36 lead entering the fourth quarter. During the deciding final period, Kentucky’s Amanda Paschal scored 10 points, hitting 2-of-2 three-pointers, while Taylor Murray tallied eight points that included a dagger three with 54 seconds remaining that gave the Wildcats (9-9, 1-3 SEC) a 54-49 lead.

Kentucky used a 6-2 spurt late when Florida missed five of six field goals tries to take the five-point edge with under a minute to play.

The Gators (8-9, 0-4 SEC) continued to fight and collected a pair of offensive rebounds during their next possession before Dyandria Anderson put in a short shot with 26 seconds remaining and UF was within three.

Delicia Washington came up with a steal three seconds later, however, Florida missed it attempt. The loose rebound was tipped off UK and Florida again had another chance with 14 seconds remaining.

The Gators missed two shots, but a third offensive board, this one by Hersler who put it back in with 6.5 seconds left and drew Florida within one point, 54-53.

Florida immediately fouled Maci Morris, who missed her first free throw but made the second for a two-point UK edge.

The Gators setup for their final possession but Funda Nakkasoglu’s three-point attempt to win it was off the mark and the Wildcats collected the defensive board and made one additional free throw for the final score.

Coming Back

  • Florida’s shot was off the mark to begin the game, as Kentucky scored the first seven points of the contest.
  • The Gators missed their first eight shots before Hersler put back one of her three offensive rebounds for a score.
  • UF was 1-of-12 from the field before Searcy connected on a three-pointer that began to chip away at UK’s 11-2 lead.

Diggin’ the Long Ball

  • Florida knocked down 10-of-36 three-pointers, as six different Gators contributed from deep, with Hersler (3 three-pointers), Nakkasoglu (2), Anderson (2), Lorenzen, Washington and Sydney Searcy each hitting.
  • It was the ninth game this year UF has recorded double-digit threes.

Individual Numbers of Note

  • Hersler tied her career of 19 points she also recorded against Saint Joseph’s, Dec. 21, 2017
  • Hersler’s final point was the 450th of her career; she also collected her 275th career rebound during the game
  • Lorenzen scored her 1,050th career point during the game
  • Anderson moved past Danielle Santos in UF’s career record book for assists for No. 14 all-time.

What’s Next for the Gators

  • Florida caps its two-game homestand on Sunday when the team plays host to LSU.
  • Tip-off inside Exactech Arena is scheduled for 1 p.m.
  • The game will be televised by SEC Network with Courtney Lyle and Tamika Catchings calling the action.

Quotes from the Court

Florida Coach Cameron Newbauer – Opening Statement:

“Obviously it frustrating and you don’t want to focus on results, but we had a chance. Defensively, we held them to 56, which is really good, but their third and fourth quarter shooting percentages were just too good – hats off to them for the way they shot the ball. We had some untimely turnovers in the first half, the same-old ones that we have been having. We have to keep fighting. We fought tonight and the effort was there, we just have to tighten up on some miscues. We have to get better, we have a lot of basketball left and we are going to learn and grow – that is all we can ask for.”

On the team’s final play:

“We had a couple of options on that last play. We had plenty of time left to drive it if we wanted, but I have been on Funda (Nakkasoglu) about shooting the ball. I am proud of her for taking it; she had a similar one against Ole Miss on Sunday that was a huge lift in the game. She needs to understand the confidence the entire team has in her and although she was not the best tonight, she can still be a player that hits the big shot for us, so that is why we went to her. Execution-wise we did a good job, it just didn’t go down.”

On picking heads up after this loss:

“It is the same as we have had all year, the obstacles are how we grow. We are going to stick together and fight and learn from our mistakes. We are going to show up tomorrow ready to play with the same type of energy. This is just a game, it doesn’t affect us as people. We are learning and growing, so we are going to stick together and fight together. It is going to make us better on and off the court. We are not going to hang our heads.”

Gator Senior Paulina Hersler

On her career night:

“Mostly, it was us executing a few plays where I came off some great screens by my teammates. It was more-so us executing our offense and the shots we make in practice every day.”

On the team’s slow start:

“We just need to keep encouraging each other when things don’t go our way, we have to have that trust within each other.”

Gator Senior Haley Lorenzen

On the team’s slow start:

“It is coming out with that fight from the start. Having the same fight when we have when we are down, no matter if we are winning, losing or even. We have to fight all the time and we have been working on that in practice. We need to have a consistent energy and pick each other up when someone makes a bad play. Picking one another up and staying in a positive mindset is huge right now.”

On the pregame recognition for scoring 1,000 career points:

“Just being in front of Gator Nation and the crowd today is the epitome of what a family feels like. It goes across all Gator fans across the country. It is such an honor to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself. It is huge to be a part of Florida Gators women’s basketball program in general and I do not take that lightly. It is all thanks to my teammates and coaches, past and present, and I am really proud to be a Florida Gator.”

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell – Opening Statement:

“It was a really hard-fought, tough game. Both teams gave a lot of effort. Florida really battled and we were fortunate to win. I credit our perseverance and how our players work to try to get better in practice. We still have a long way to go and a lot of things that we need to get better doing, but it sure feels good to get a victory.”

Scores of Other SEC Games Played Thursday

  • ALABAMA def. LSU, 65-51
  • No. 17 TEXAS A&M def. No. 6 Tennessee, 79-76 OT
  • No. 9 SOUTH CAROLINA def. Auburn, 71-63
  • No. 12 Missouri def. VANDERBILT, 81-70
  • GEORGIA def. Arkansas 78-65
  • No. 4 MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. Ole Miss – late

Gator Pronunciations for this Release:

  • DYANDRIA Anderson: dee-ANN-dree-uh
  • FUNDA NAKKASOGLU: FOON-da knock-ah-SO-glue
  • Sydney SEARCY: SIR-see
  • DELICIA Washington: duh-LEE-shuh





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