Group Efforts Leads Gators to Victory over Bethune-Cookman

Behind a balanced offensive attack and a gritty defensive performance, the University of Florida women’s basketball team battled to a 64-53 victory over Bethune-Cookman Wednesday evening at Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell, earning their second-straight win.

For the second time in as many games Florida had four players finish in double figures as a total of nine Gators scored in the game. Junior guard Delicia Washingtonled the way for UF scoring 16 points and adding 10 rebounds as she collected her eighth career double-double. Junior Zada Williams came through in a big way for Florida by providing a major spark off the bench, scoring a career-high 15 points and securing eight rebounds. In addition to the success of the junior duo of Washington and Williams, a pair of freshmen had strong performances as Ariel Johnson stuffed the stat sheet with a 12 point, nine rebound and five assist game while Kristina Moore scored 11 points, knocking down all five of her free throw attempts.

A collection of players stepped up in the absence of leading scorer Funda Nakksoglu, who missed the game due to an injury.

After a breakout game against Texas Tech, Johnson added another double-figure scoring game and her nine rebounds surpassed her previous best of two.

Florida excelled on defense and on the glass as it held Bethune-Cookman to just 53 points, the fewest point total it has allowed all season and notched a season-high 48 rebounds.

After a slow start, Florida fought back to carry a 22-19 edge at the half and never looked back as it used a third quarter run to separate itself from the Wildcats. The Gators never trailed in the final 20 minutes and led by as many as 13 in fourth quarter. Bethune-Cookman attempted to mount a comeback late but the Gators’ 12 free throw conversions in the fourth quarter helped ice the victory.

Florida trailed 13-10 at the end of the first but ramped up the defensive intensity in the second, holding the Wildcats to just six points in the frame. UF held Bethune-Cookman scoreless for over six minutes to close the half all while utilizing 9-0 scoring run to garner the game’s momentum heading into the break. Six different Gators scored first half points, paced by Washington’s six. Florida allowed just six points in the second quarter, the fewest points allowed in a quarter all season.

The Gators stingy defense carried over to the second half as they held the Wildcats scoreless for the first 2:21 of the third. UF pulled away in the third quarter outscoring Bethune-Cookman 21-14 as Washington took charge with eight points and four rebounds in the frame. A three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer by Johnson excited the crowd and provided the Gators with a double-digit lead at 43-33 heading into the fourth.

In the final period Florida held a narrow 21-20 edge, but it connected on 12-of-13 free throw attempts, shooting 92.3 percent from the charity stripe to hold off Bethune-Cookman.

After outscoring Texas Tech 24-1 in terms of bench production on Sunday, the Gator reserves turned in another strong showing as Florida finished with a 29-8 edge in bench scoring over the Wildcats.

Floor general Kiara Smith tied her season high with six assists and she also registered five rebounds for the Gators.

Bethune-Cookman led for over 16 minutes in the first half while Florida led for 22 minutes overall as the game was tied just once and saw just one lead change.

Florida returns to action Sunday as it closes out its season-long four-game homestand against the Florida A&M Lady Rattlers. Tip off is set for 2 p.m. at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


  • Funda Nakkasoglu was held out of the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 23, 2017 when she missed Florida’s matchup vs. Savannah State due to injury.
  • Four Gators finished in double figures for the second-straight game.
  • Corey Staples earned her first career start and scored first career points by knocking down a three-pointer from the corner in the third quarter.
  • Delicia Washington added her eighth career double double and her first of the 2018-19 campaign
  • Florida finished with 40 or more rebounds for the second-straight game.
  • Florida featured its third different starting lineup of the season.
  • The Gators have won back-to-back games for the first time since January of 2018 when they won at Arkansas and at home vs. Ole Miss in succession and back-to-back home games for the first time since December of last season when they knocked off Saint Joseph’s and Delaware State consecutively.
  • Florida improves to 7-0 against Bethune-Cookman and 5-0 in home games against the Wildcats.
  • The Gators improve to 25-8 all time against MEAC teams and 228-68 versus in-state teams.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

Opening statement… 
“Overall, it was a really gritty performance from our team tonight.  I thought it was great that other people were going to get the opportunity to step up for us with Funda not playing. Corey Staples stepped and did a really good job, starting in her absence. Overall, it was kind of similar to last game where our first half wasn’t pretty. We made some adjustments and came out in the second half and played a little more fluidly on offense and shared the ball more. We made some big free throws down the stretch and did a terrific job on the defensive end and rebounding. Anytime you have four players in double figures, three of which basically almost had double doubles, you’re going to be in a good position. Delicia with 16 and 10, Zada 15 and 8, Ari, as the point guard for us had a 12, nine rebounds and five assists, which is terrific.  And not to mention, Kiki had six assists, so overall it was just a great team performance. We found a way, stayed the course and I’m just proud of our kids.”
On Ariel Johnson’s performance
“When we recruited Ari, we knew she wasn’t just a point guard. She wasn’t just a guard. She was a gritty, tough young lady that wants to be great at basketball. For her on the defensive and rebounding side, she really does a good job of getting in there and mixing it up and she’s got pretty good strength going in there and boxing out and trying to get those rebounds. Anytime you have a guard that can rebound like that is a bonus. We knew she had those capabilities from recruiting her and now we are seeing her put it together from more of an offensive standpoint.
Freshman often times, their heads are spinning those first few months of practice and in games because they have self-inflicted pressure. They have me on them the whole time, teaching them a million different things and expect them to be great at all of them and that just shows that Ari has weathered the storm of the toughest part of her career because that first couple months of one’s freshman year is the hardest time. In some respects, the switch has went on and she is playing with a lot more comfort and keeping her eyes on the rim. She’s taking some tough shots where she just sees opportunity. The great thing is that she continues to learn and wants to keep getting better, so she soaks it up like a sponge and that is the good thing about Ari. We are excited about her future.”
On area of the game to adjust moving forward…
“The obvious one might be our shooting percentage. Those are shots that we make on a consistent basis in practice, so we just need to stay the course. Look at what we are doing from the defensive standpoint and rebounding standpoint. We had some opportunities tonight where we might have taken some quick shots, rushed them a little bit and they didn’t go down. So that is just the process. Anytime you have 10 new players and two that played significant minutes last year, you have to figure out a way to come together and that takes some time.  Especially when you have young players that have never played significant minutes. That is part of the process and the great thing is in early December when you have things to work on because that means we have plenty of upside ahead.”
Junior Guard Delicia Washington
On what lead to her strong play in third quarter
“Funda [Nakkasolgu) and Danielle [Rainey] said to me…basically told me I need to give a little bit more. And I basically took that as something to build on and I knew that we had one man down so everybody has to be ready to give a little bit more, everyone had to step up a little bit more, and when they said that to me I just felt that I needed to give a little bit more energy.”
Junir Forward Zada Williams
 On what she saw in the post and was able to take advantage of…
“They weren’t doubling so it was a one-on-one game, and even with me if they did double, being able to pass it out, working the ball inside to be able to kick it back out.”
On team rebounding performance past two games…
“Practice, we do a lot of rebounding drills and the coaches stress it a lot so just trusting that rebounding is a very important part of the game in securing the win.”

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