Rough Third Quarter Spoils Gators’ Home Finale

Down a starter and playing its seventh ranked opponent in its last eight games, Florida hung tough against No. 15 Tennessee but a scoring drought in third quarter contributed toward a 70-42 loss at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Thursday.

In the final home game of the 2017-18 season, the score was tied at the end of the first quarter and the Gators trailed by four at the half.

The first half featured seven tied scores and two lead changes and seemed to be setting up for another thrilling SEC finish for the Gators, who have played nine league games decided by 10 points or less.

The Lady Vols (22-6, 10-5 SEC) had a different plan and ripped out of the locker room scoring the first 14 points of the third quarter en route to a devastating 24-2 differential and the game was never the same.

Florida continued to fight in the fourth quarter and lost the frame by just two points, 14-12, but the damage was done.

Senior Paulina Hersler was the lone Gator to tally a double-figure scoring night with 12 points, while seven of the eight players who saw action contributed offensively.

One of the surprising highlights was the play of walk-on Stephanie Brower. Entering the game, the freshman from Wesley Chapel, Florida, had seen action in four games, totaling 11 minutes. On Thursday against the Lady Vols, Brower logged nine minutes before halftime and finished with 24 solid minutes, dished a team-high-tying three assists, collected two rebounds, one steal and scored the first points of her Gator career – as well as the first points of the fourth quarter – hitting a three-pointer with 9:32 remaining.


Quoting UF Coach Cameron Newbauer – Opening Statement:

“It was a tale of two halves. Hats off to them for the adjustments they made. We knew they were going to try and take away the three-point line because we’ve shot it so well as of late. I thought they’d go man and deny us and make it tough for us and they did that in the first half. Their adjustment to the zone, to stretch it out, really affected us and took us out of what we wanted to do.

“Too many turnovers (25) but that’s part of it when you play a team with everybody over six-foot and you’re pressing.

“I’m just so proud of the effort we put forth in the first half and for the rest of the game. We kept fighting, kept plugging away.

“I’m proud of our seniors for continuing to lead us the right way and who they are as people.

“I’m proud of Steph Brower. It was fantastic to see Stephanie out there tonight. Should have been playing her more early – just her energy and enthusiasm. She had some great rebounds. She looked comfortable out there. It was a good opportunity for her and Tameria (Johnson) with extended minutes. It was a great learning experience for us. Now, we’re going to turn the page because Sunday is Georgia and that’s what we’ve got to be prepared for and that’s what we’ll do.”


Individual Numbers of Note

  • Funda Nakkasoglu knocked down a three-pointer in her 21st consecutive game, a run that ranks as the third-longest in program history.
  • Paulina Hersler collected the 350th rebound of her career during the game.
  • Hersler logged her team-leading 19th double-figure scoring game of the season, also the 21st of her career.
  • Haley Lorenzen collected a team-best seven rebounds and led the Gators for the 15th time on the boards this season.


Worth Noting

  • Tennessee entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country in free throw attempts per game (24.1 pg) and No. 2 in made free throws per game (16.9 pg). On Thursday, UT went just 8-for-8 from the line.
  • The Lady Vols ranked No. 7 in the country in rebounds per game and managed a slim 38-36 edge against the Gators on Thursday.
  • UT’s 6-foot-6 center Mercedes Russell was limited to six points on 3-of-8 shooting.


What About Washington

  • Due to an ankle injury, sophomore Delicia Washington was sidelined for the first time in her career.
  • She had started 49 consecutive games and 57 of 58 games in her career before Thursday.
  • Washington leads the Gators in assists and is the team’s second-leading rebounder.
  • Freshman Tameria Johnson got her first start and logged a career-high 33 minutes.


What’s Next for the Gators

  • Florida travels to Athens, Georgia, where it plays the No. 19-ranked Lady Bulldogs (23-5, 11-4 SEC) on Sunday in the final regular season game of the year.
  • Georgia defeated Alabama, 49-43 in overtime in Tuscaloosa on Thursday.
  • Tip-off from Stegeman Coliseum is scheduled for 12 noon, ET and will be televised by SEC Network with Courtney Lyle and Tamika Catchings calling the action.
  • The Gators then travel directly to Nashville, site of the 2018 SEC Tournament where UF will most likely play its first round game on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena.


Gator Pronunciations for this Release:

  • PAULINA Hersler: POW-lee-nuh
  • TAMERIA Johnson: tah-MEIR-ee-uh
  • FUNDA NAKKASOGLU: FOON-da knock-a-SO-glue
  • DELICIA Washington: duh-LEE-shuh


Links of Note:


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