Gators Stumble Late in Loss to No. 21 Georgia


It has become a frustrating trend for Florida this season – the Gators hold a late lead and can’t seem to close out for the win. On Sunday, they battled through their 11th game decided by 10 points or less and came up on the short end of a 66-57 decision to No. 21 Georgia at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida dropped to 4-7 in those tight games, including a 1-5 record in Southeastern Conference action. The Gators have held at least a two-point lead in eight of their nine league games this season and jumped out to a double-digit lead in three games, only to drop all three of those, including Sunday’s contest against the Lady Bulldogs that snapped Florida’s two-game win streak in the series.

Paulina Hersler finished with a career-high-tying 19 points for Florida, while Funda Nakkasoglu recorded 18 points and Haley Lorenzen 12. Delicia Washington collected a game-high 13 rebounds and managed to score her lone points of the game with 8.4 seconds remaining and extended her game scoring streak to 41.

How It Happened

Florida held a 42-35 lead entering the fourth quarter where Georgia (19-2, 7-1 SEC) outscored the Gators 31-15 to win its seventh consecutive game while handing the Gators (10-12, 2-7 SEC) their second straight setback.

The Lady Bulldogs scored the first eight points of the deciding final quarter that featured five lead changes and one tied score. Florida called a timeout after losing the lead for the first time since there was 5:32 remaining in the second quarter.

Paulina Hersler, who finished with a career-high-tying 19 points, banked in a 15-footer to stop the run and swung the lead back to the Gators.

The lead went back and forth for the next two minutes before Maya Caldwell hit a three-pointer for a 49-46 Georgia edge. Florida countered Georgia’s field goals over the next minute before Simone Costa’s three was followed by a transition layup by Cailya Robinson for a six-point Dawg advantage with 2:25 on the clock.

Neither team would score for the next minute until Dyandria Anderson dropped in a baseline floater with 65 seconds left.

Georgia missed on its ensuing offensive possession but hustled for the loose offensive rebound with 43 seconds remaining and Florida was forced to foul. The Dawgs next four points, as well as their final 10 points of the game came from the free throw line in the last 33.6 seconds to seal the win, as the Gators were able to counter each Georgia possession with two points but weren’t able to make up any ground.

Florida was Fine in the First Half

  • The Gators used a run of 13-2 to take a 13-6 with 3:33 left in the first quarter before Georgia immediately countered with a 9-0 run and took a 15-14 lead at the end of the initial frame.
  • Florida started the second quarter with a 16-5 run that bled into the first 70 second of the third for a 30-20 advantage with 8:50 on the clock.
  • Florida outscored Georgia, 12-5, in the second quarter and assumed a 42-35 halftime lead.

Individual Numbers of Note

  • Hersler, who scored her 500th career point during the first half of today’s game, tied her career-high of 19 points for the fourth time this season; it was her 15th double-figure scoring game this season and 17th of her career
  • Hersler also grabbed her 300th career rebound during the game
  • Nakkasoglu’s double-figure scoring effort was her 15th this year and 68th of her career
  • Lorenzen notched her 15th double-figure scoring game this season and 54th of her career
  • Washington collected double-figure rebounds for the ninth time this season and in her career

Overall Numbers of Note

  • There were 10 lead changes and four tied scores, including that exciting fourth quarter when the lead changed hands five times and there was one tied score.
  • Florida has lost its last 10 games against nationally ranked teams, including four this season: Florida State (Nov. 17), Ohio State (Dec. 6) and Mississippi State (Jan. 25).
  • Florida hit a season-low two three-pointers, converting 2-of-16 for the game.
  • The Gators won the rebounding battle tonight, 39-35, and for the 16th time this season. Florida, however, did not have any second-chance points off their nine offensive boards.

First Half Numbers of Note

  • Fourth SEC game the Gators have led at halftime (1-3 in those games)
  • Washington’s nine rebounds were tied for most in the first half of a game this season (She also had nine vs. Savannah State; Lorenzen at Mississippi State)
  • Hersler’s 13 points were the most she has scored in the first half of a game this season (was 12 at Arkansas)

Quotes from the Court

Florida Head Coach Cameron Newbauer

Opening Statement

“This one is on us as coaches. I could have called a timeout at the end and I didn’t do that. I’ll take that. Our effort was incredible. We fought hard for three quarters and in the fourth quarter we still fought. Shots just didn’t go down that had (earlier in the game). Georgia is a great team and they are a great defensive team. There’s a reason they are a top 25 team in the country. They really took us out of sorts but, the thing that I really like is we kept fighting and kept getting stops. We changed some things up and overall I’m really happy with the result. We’ll change some things up. We’ll get better from this and keep working. We’ll welcome the off week. We don’t play again until a week from tomorrow. We’ll get some much needed rest and we’ll get back to the grind.”

On making a season-low two three-pointers

“They guard you. They guard you very, very well. They push up on the perimeter. They close out tight. They are great defensive team, that’s their MO. They have a lot of length on the perimeter, as well. They kind of gave us some problems and I think they did a good job of avoiding it with dribble drives and finishing.”

On having the bye week/day coming up

“We have been banged up and there have been some extended minutes for our starters. I’m excited for them just to have some more days off this week to recoup, focus on academics and let our bodies get back.”

On Haley Lorenzen’s injury

“I don’t know what that was. The trainer said she was fine. She came back in and made some plays so, I think Haley is fine. Maybe just a Charlie horse or something like that.”

On playing with the lead against a ranked team

“We don’t talk about what the score is we just talk about what we are going to do on each possession. In my prospective, I don’t think that our players played the scoreboard. When teams make a run, you have to try and score to stop it. Sometimes that can put a little more anxiety on you when you focus on that. That’s one thing that we have focused on this year. At the end of the game, we kept fighting and kept trying to get good looks. We’re learning more and more what are the right shots and we’re going to start making them.”

Funda Nakkasoglu, Florida Junior Guard

On mental toughness down the stretch

“We tried our best and we always try our best and give our best effort when it’s needed. I think there were some breakdowns at the end of the third quarter and into the beginning of the fourth quarter which let them come back into the game and our spirits kind of went down from that. We worked together and fought. The end score isn’t what we wanted but I think our mental toughness is getting better game by game.”

Paulina Hersler, Florida Graduate Student Forward

On guarding Georgia’s Caliya Robinson

“It’s obviously really tough. She is a really good player but I feel like there are a lot of good forwards in this league so there are always good players to play against. That’s something that we have been preparing for and something that we have been doing every single game.”

On scoring 19 points

“It was just shot by shot. It’s something you can’t ever really predict and I just take it possession by possession. The guards did a really, really good job of feeding us in the post. I think that opened up a lot of the inside game and then outside.”

What’s Next for the Gators

  • Florida has a mid-week bye from competition and won’t return to action until Monday, February 5 when the team plays at No. 11 Missouri.
  • The Tigers entered Sunday’s road game against No. 9 South Carolina with a 17-3 overall record, 5-2 in the SEC.
  • The Gators are 0-6 all-time against the Tigers, the only SEC team Florida has yet to defeat.

Scores of other SEC Games Played Sunday

  • No. 2 Mississippi State def. OLE MISS, 69-49
  • LSU def. No. 10 Tennessee, 70-59
  • No. 15 Texas A&M def. VANDERBILT, 91-67
  • Alabama at AUBURN – late start
  • No. 11 Missouri at No. 9 South Carolina – late start

Gator Pronunciations for this Release:

  • DYANDRIA Anderson: dee-ANN-dree-uh
  • PAULINA Hersler: pow-LEE-nuh
  • FUNDA NAKKASOGLU: FOON-da knock-ah-SO-glue
  • DELICIA Washington: duh-LEE-shuh

LINKS of Note:


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