Gators Come up Short at Tennessee

The University of Florida women’s basketball team was unable to overcome a slow start out of the gate and dropped a 67-50 decision to the Tennessee Lady Vols Thursday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Funda Nakkasoglu, scoring at least 10 points for the 16th time this season, finished with 18 to pace the Gators. The redshirt-senior fought hard, pouring in 12 second half points which included two makes from three-point range, but it wasn’t enough as the Gators fell in the road test.
Kiara Smith added 11 points and three steals as the sophomore guard scored in double figures for the fifth time in eight league contests.
Going up against a Lady Vol defense that entered the contest forcing over 18 turnovers per game, Florida valued its possessions and committed a season-low eight turnovers for the night. The Gators featured their eighth different starting lineup combination this season and seven of the eight players to see the floor scored in the matchup.
UF entered the game having outrebounded its opponent in four straight, but on Thursday the Lady Vols held a 48-32 edge on the glass.
Florida put together a strong second quarter, outscoring Tennessee 19-15.
Zada Williams added five points and six rebounds off the bench and freshman Emanuely de Oliveira notched five points and four boards in her first collegiate start.

Florida faced a 24-8 deficit at the end of the first period as the Lady Vols closed strong, draining five of their last six shots in the stanza. The Lady Vols, who shot 0-for-13 from three-point range against LSU in their most recent outing, connected on three-straight treys to end the period.
Despite falling into an early hole, UF responded by outscoring the Lady Vols in the second stanza. After Tennessee built its largest lead of the game at 39-21 with under two minutes to play, the Gators fought back with a 6-0 scoring spurt to take them into the break. Florida put together a great sequence of plays late as Smith drained a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock on one end, Williams took a charge on the ensuing possession and then converted an and 1 opportunity to trim the gap to 39-27.
After shooting just 28.6 percent in the first period, UF improved its shooting percentage to 40.0 in the second and registered three 3-pointers after going 0-for-6 in the first from distance.
Early in the third, Florida would get as close as 11 at 41-30 after de Oliveira dropped in her 10th three-pointer of the season, but Tennessee finished the quarter outscoring the visiting Gators 13-9 to carry a 52-36 edge heading into the fourth.
Nakkasogulu led a spirited Florida charge in the fourth, pouring in 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
The Lady Vols, who have now posted back-to-back wins after snapping a six-game slide on Sunday, featured two players with double-doubles as Rennia Davis added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Cheridene Green scored 15 points and 10 boards.
Florida returns to game action Sunday, Feb. 3 when it wraps up its road swing with a matchup at Kentucky. The Gators and Wildcats will meet at 2 p.m. ET from Rupp Arena and the broadcast will be carried live on ESPNU.

Up Next
Sunday, Feb. 3 | 2 p.m.
Florida (5-16, 1-7) vs. Kentucky (17-5, 4-4)
Rupp Arena | Lexington, Ky.

  • The Gators featured their eighth different starting lineup this season.
  • Florida committed just eight turnovers, a season low.
  • Funda Nakkasoglu scored a team-best 18 points as she led the team in scoring for the 13th time in the fourth time in as many games.
  • Nakkasoglu has knocked down multiple three-pointers in 16 games now for the Gators and continues to lead the SEC with 58 treys.
  • Kiki Smith finished in double figures for the fifth time in eight league tilts and has recorded at least one three-point make in six of her last eight games.
  • Smith recorded three steals which tied a season best.
  • Florida held the Lady Vols to just four fast break points.
  • Emanuely de Oliveira made her first career collegiate start, adding five points and four rebounds. She knocked down her 10th three-pointer of the season and now seven Gators have registered double-digit three-pointers on the year.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

Opening statement…
 “Out of the gate they (Tennessee) did a good job of really jumping on us. They average about three 3-pointers a game, and they hit three within the first five minutes. Once we settled down, I really liked how we competed in that first quarter. They set us back with 18 assists on 26 field goals. I like that we only had eight turnovers; we did a really good job of handling their pressure. I thought we got really good looks tonight, but they just did not go down. I am proud of our overall fight and effort, we just have to get better and that is what we will do.”
On what he hopes the team will improve on…
 “We have a pretty young group outside of Funda (Nakkasoglu) and Delicia (Washington). Some of these kids come in here, and it is there first time at Tennessee, and it was a big deal. They grew up knowing about Tennessee basketball, but they have to learn that they put their pants on the same way we do. You have to come out and give effort and fight immediately. The experience that we are gaining and the growth that we are having every possession, there is a lot in that for us. Our wins are not coming in the win/loss record right now, and that is a big deal. If they stop fighting and competing then we have a problem, but our kids are not doing that. They are trying to keep competing, playing hard and keep getting better.”
On Emanuely de Oliveira’s performance in her first career start…
 “I think she is getting better. She had a take in the first half where she sliced down the defense. She did a great job getting past the perimeter and finishing. I thought she was competing. She was giving up three, four and five inches to some of those players, but she kept competing and boxing out. She continues to get better for us. She missed a lot of the preseason this year for us and did not practice. It has taken her a little time to understand what we are doing, but the improvement she is showing for a true freshman is really awesome to see.”
Redshirt-Senior Guard Funda Nakkasoglu
On her hot shooting in the second half…
 “I think it is just that some days they go in and some days they do not. At the beginning they were not going in, but I have the confidence in my teammates and coaches to keep me going. I am so grateful for that, because it helps me get out of my own mind and just play my game. So, I think I just look towards them, and they give me what I need. They know that I am going to help the team out the best I can.”
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