GAINESVILLE, Fla. â€“ The University of Florida women’s basketball team broke through for a 72-67 victory over Texas Tech Sunday afternoon at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, earning its first victory of the 2018-19 campaign and notching a win for the SEC in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Funda Nakkasoglu, Ariel Johnson, Emanuely de Oliveiraand Kiki Smith all finished in double figures as the Gators had four players score 10 or more points in a game for the second time this season. The play of Johnson and de Oliveira was critical as the two Gator rookies established new career highs with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Johnson poured in career-high four three-pointers and dished out five assists to pace the Gators.
In a game that saw eight lead changes and seven ties, Florida recorded season highs in three-pointers made (13) and rebounds (47). For the fifth time this season, Nakkasoglu led Florida in scoring, adding 21 points and helping secure the Gator victory with four free throws late in the game.
Smith, scoring in double-figures for the third-straight game, made an impact in several facets of the game registering 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
After Florida led for the majority of the third quarter Texas Tech nailed a three-pointer late to take a 46-45 lead with just 15 seconds remaining in the frame. On the next possession, Nakkasoglu swished a baseline jumper as the third quarter horn sounded to provide Florida with a one-point lead heading into the fourth. The Gators would not trail from this point forward, outscoring the Lady Raiders 25-21 in the final stanza to secure their first win of the season.
A Texas Tech free throw to open the fourth tied the game at 47-47, but Nakkasoglu picked up right back where she left off by draining another jumper, this one a three-pointer, to put the Gators back on top. Early in the quarter, Florida had its offense rolling and it built a 57-49 lead with 7:09 to play. The Lady Raiders stormed back with a 6-0 scoring run to trim the Gator lead to just two at 57-55 with less than five minutes to play. With the shot clock running down, freshman Kristina Moore drilled a three-pointer to make it a two possession game again with 4:35 remaining. The Gators would not allow TTU to get within three points the rest of the way, as Nakkasoglu, Johnson and Smith made the free throws Florida needed in the game’s later moments.
The three Gator freshmen combined to score 30 points as Johnson, De Oliveira and Moore had their fingerprints all over the Florida win. Johnson and de Oliveira helped Florida outscore Texas Tech 24-1 in terms of bench points.
The Gators improve to 2-0 all time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
In addition to their effective long-distance shooting and the strong contribution from the Florida freshmen, the Gators’ outstanding working on the glass and ability to share the ball helped fuel the victory. Florida outrebounded its opponent for the third time this season and snatched a season-high 19 offensive rebounds.
For the first time this season, two Florida players hauled 10 or more rebounds as upperclassmen Delicia Washington and Zada Williams were both forces on the boards. Washington hauled in 10 while Williams snagged a career-best 12. Florida recorded a season-best 16 assists, notching assists on 64 percent of its baskets and four Gators finished with at least three assists, led by the freshman Johnson’s five.
While they shot just 33.3 percent overall on field goals, the Gators put together one of their best three-point shooting displays of the year, knocking down 43.8 percent of their long distance tries. Six different Gators made a three-pointer including Paige Robinson, who knocked down her first triple of the season in the first quarter.
Building off her 10 rebound performance against Northeastern, Robinson added a career-high eight points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
Texas Tech featured three players in double figures, enjoying an outstanding individual effort from Brittany Brewer who finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
At the half, the teams played to even 24-24 score. The Lady Raiders led for the majority of the opening 20 minutes but a flurry of three-point field goals brought the Gators back in the second period. The Gators converted on three three-pointers in both the first and second quarters, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc the first half. Johnson and de Oliviera were the story for the Florida in the first as they both surpassed their previous career highs in scoring by the break.
After a slow start in the first half Florida found its footing in the third, nearly matching its entire first half scoring output with 23 third quarter points.
Florida continues its season-long four-game home swing it welcomes in-state foe Bethune-Cookman for a 7 p.m. ET tip on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Florida (1-6) vs. Bethune-Cookman (4-2)
Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center
- The Gators set season highs in assists (16), rebounds (47) and three-pointers made (13)
- Florida’s 13 three-pointers were its most since it made 13 vs. Texas A&M on Feb. 15, 2018
- Funda Nakkasoglu has at least 20 points in six of Florida’s seven contests
- 52 percent of Florida’s made field goals were three-pointers
- Florida improves to 2-0 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge all time and 1-0 vs. Texas Tech
- Paige Robinson made her first career three-pointer and scored a career-high eight points
- Ariel Johnson set career highs in points (14) and assists (5)
- Emanuely De Oliveira set a new career high with 10 points
- Zada Williams added career bests in rebounds (12) and assists (3)
- Delicia Washington added a season-high 10 rebounds
- Kristina Moore has made a three-pointer in four-straight games
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
“Proud of our kids. Proud of our effort, not just today but ever since our first game in just staying the course and fighting and clawing and figuring out a way to get better every single day. And that’s what we’ve done. We fought and clawed our way to this win tonight. It wasn’t the prettiest game. But when we needed stops, we got stops, when we needed rebounds, we got rebounds and we had to hit shots, we hit shots. I am just very excited, it was such a great team effort today.
You know, Kristina Moore hits that huge three at the end of the shot clock, that was really big for us. Ari [Johnson] did a great job of coming in there and contributing. I challenged her out of a timeout, trying to get her going and Ari just has that even-keel, stoic-like emotion about herself where she just plays and she did that tonight. She made some huge plays for us and our other freshman Emanuely [de Oliveira] did a terrific job and had a big time shot late in the game. So then, not just the freshmen, but we knew we needed other people to step up at times and so for the three freshmen to step up and then for Zada [Williams] today to do what she did. With Zada, we talk a lot about how you affect the game in a positive manner if you’re not scoring and Zada didn’t have a point today but she had 12 rebounds and three assists. That is huge. She had seven offensive rebounds. If you look at what Delicia [Washington] did, it’s the same type of thing. She did not necessarily score the ball, but she had 10 rebounds for us.
So it was such a great team effort today and that’s a tough team we played. They [Texas Tech] were eighth in the country in rebounding. They were 5-1 and I thought we did a terrific job of controlling the tempo and really grinded it out from a defensive rebounding standpoint and that’s just a testament to the will of our players every day just saying let’s keep getting better. So I am just so proud of them for that.”
On the momentum that carried over from the third quarter to the fourth quarter after Funda’s buzzer shotâ€¦.
“That was big. We ran a play and that play was almost like a microcosm of how we are right now and how we got to get this win today because when you are running a late clock play and the time is winding down, typically what players will do is they will break the play and just kind of do their own thing. They will go rogue. And you know, when time is winding down at the end, you go fast and we got to the last option of the play and just fired a great pass to the corner and found Funda there and she took her time and a buried it like she does so often. So I just thought that was so indicative of the game today and where we have been the last month with let’s stay the course, no matter what happens, stay the course.”
On inside out game and crashing the offensive glassâ€¦
“[Brittany] Brewer had five blocks in the first half and one in the second half. We really tried to attack her when we got the ball in the first half and in the second half, if you notice we kind of went to her a little and did a better job shaping up on the perimeter and finding the open shooters and kicking it out. That’s why Zada ended up having those three assists and I think we just had more movement and made them guard a little longer than they would have liked.”
Redshirt Senior Guard Funda Nakkasoglu
On getting the close win todayâ€¦
“It’s awesome because we’ve been waiting for this win for so long. As coach said everyone had to trust the process that we’ve been doing that in and out every day, grinding and hustling. We knew there was going to be adversity during times in the game. They came back, they went on runs, we went on runs and it was kind of back and forth. I think we finally locked in. Everyone was so focused and so eager to get that win that we finally pulled it out at the end.”
Freshman Guard Ariel Johnson
On her confidence in today’s gameâ€¦
“I felt pretty great. I have always had confidence. I think today I came in with a different mindset. My teammates and I played our butts off today and as a result we got a win.”