Gators Fall in Conference Home Opener, 64-56 to Auburn

The University of Florida women’s basketball team fell 64-56 to Auburn Sunday afternoon in its 2018-19 SEC home opener at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida shared the ball well and shot it effectively from distance, but fell in its first conference home game despite holding a 31-25 edge at the intermission. The Gators, finishing with 10 or more assists for the fifth-straight game, compiled 12 helpers on the day to go with 11 three-pointers.

Sophomore guard Kiki Smith put together one of the best games of her young Gator career with a season-best 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. Smith netted three 3-pointers on the game, the most she’s tallied in a game all season.

The Gators, who have held their opponent to under 65 points nine times this season, limited a potent Auburn offense to just 64 points after the Tigers carried a points per game average north of 80 entering the matchup.

Funda Nakkasoglu, finishing with 10 or more points for the 11th time on the year, added 11 to join Smith in double figures. In a game that saw five ties and 10 lead changes, the Gators came up short after the Tigers outscored them 39-25 in the second half.

The Gators featured a balanced offensive attack as six players finished with six or more points, including Danielle Rainey who added eight and Zada Williams who finished with six points and eight boards off the Gator bench.

Florida held leads after the first and second quarters, but the Tigers mounted their rally with a 23-point third quarter to snap UF’s four-game home winning streak.

It was 17-16 in favor of Florida after the first quarter had expired thanks in large part to the production of its bench which outscored Auburn’s 11-0 in the period. UF connected on a trio of three-pointers in the first and took advantage of its trips to the free throw line, cashing in six of eight tries from the stripe.

Auburn opened the second period on fire, scoring six points on a pair of three-pointers in the first 25 seconds of the frame. After UF committed just three turnovers in the first quarter, the Tigers forced the Gators into registering four turnovers in the first three minutes of the quarter. Florida would trail for the majority of the second but found a second gear late in the stanza as it capped off the half with a 12-0 scoring spurt to carry a 31-25 edge into the intermission.

The Gators, facing a 25-19 deficit with 3:46 to play in the second, held Auburn scoreless the rest of the way and found their footing on offense to wrap up the quarter. The Gators scored on three of their final four possessions which included a three-pointer from Nakkasoglu and a three from Smith with 29 seconds left in the first half. Six Gators added first half tallies, paced by Nakkasoglu who scored eight including a pair of connections from deep.

UF carried the momentum it built to end the first stanza into the second as it connected on three of its first six three pointers to claim a 39-31 lead early on in the second half. Back came Auburn though as the Tigers utilized a 7-0 run to slash the Florida lead to 39-38 at the third quarter media timeout. The Tigers then scored the first four points out of the media stoppage to extend their run to 11-0 and claim a lead of 42-39. One of Nakkasoglu’s three 3-pointers snapped a scoreless drought that lasted longer than six minutes to knot the score at 42-42, with under two minutes in the period. After the Gators fought back to tie, Auburn then finished the frame on a 6-2 run and led 48-44 heading into the fourth.

To begin the fourth, Smith drained a three-pointer on the Gators’ first possession to draw them within one at 48-47. But despite getting a few good looks, Florida would struggle to score for most of the fourth. A Williams’ free throw with 2:42 remaining snapped an 8-0 Auburn run and a nearly seven minute scoreless streak as UF faced a 56-48 deficit with 2:42 to play. The Gators didn’t back down as they scored the next five points to trim the gap to just one possession at 65-53 with just over two minutes remaining. The Tigers finished the game on an 8-3 run, including six free throws, to deny the Gators their chance at a fifth-straight home win.

Junior guard Daisa Alexander led all scorers with 22 points to go with five steals while Janiah McKay added 16 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Florida returns to action Thursday, Jan. 10 when it travels to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia

Up Next
Florida (4-11, 0-2) vs. South Carolina (10-4, 2-0)
Colonial Life Arena | Columbia, S.C.


  • Kiki Smith finished the game with 15 points, a new career high and her first time in double figures since recording 11 against Texas Tech on December 2, 2018.
  • Smith made three 3-pointers, a season best and it was her first time leading the Gators in scoring.
  • After outscoring Auburn 21-6, UF’s bench is outscoring opponent’s reserves, 282-173 on the season and the Gators have held the edge in terms of bench production in 10 games.
  • UF finished with seven or more three-pointers for the 10th time.
  • Sunday was the Gators’ fifth game of the season recording double-digit three-pointers as they finished with 11 triples. They recorded double-digits in games against Mercer (12), Northeastern (11), Texas Tech (13) and Alabama (12).
  • Florida has now recorded double-digit three-pointers in consecutive games for the first time this season.
  • Funda Nakkasoglu had three steals, the most she has collected since joining UF.
  • Zada Williams finished with eight rebounds, leading the team in rebounds for the third this season.
  • The Gators finished with 12 assists, making this their fifth-straight game with 10 or more assists.
  • Florida trails the all-time series vs. Auburn, 22-36 and the Tigers have claimed five of the last six meetings.


Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement…
 “We got better tonight and learned a lot. I thought that our attitude and effort was fantastic. I really like how hard we fought. You have to learn that in the SEC, when you get punched, you can’t flinch. You have to come back to what you know and that is the biggest learning experience from tonight was that we flinched a little bit and got away from what we know. We stayed the course defensively. In our league, 64 points is a good total to hold some teams to. Overall, I am really proud of our effort and now we have to get tougher mentally and overall in our game. We keep improving and growing, and what’s great about our group is that they’re going to show up on Tuesday and fight. These ladies have a lot of fight and a lot of heart. I look forward to that and the opportunity we can take from this.”

On improvement from Thursday’s game to Sunday…
“On Thursday, I thought we had some big miscues on defense where we gave up a lot of open looks. Today, we did a better job tonight of communicating defensively. We did a better job of making their players uncomfortable. They made some tough shots but I thought we defended them pretty well today. We took away some things and locked in today. It’s a constant learning experience for us because no one besides Funda (Nakkaoslgu) and Delicia (Washington) has seen that type of pressure before. You only get tougher and better from this experience.”

On Danielle Rainey’s improvement…
“She’s getting more comfortable with where her shots are coming from. Like I said earlier, this is a different type of game so no matter what type of comfort level you have, when you’ve never seen this before and you’re trying to get acclimated into the team, it’s a tough game to do that in. But she stepped up and hit a couple of big shots for us tonight. It’s a learning experience for us and it’s another opportunity for us to keep getting better with the young team that we have.”

On the team’s big second quarter run…
“We did a good job hitting a couple shots here and there and making a few big stops. We held them to nine points in that quarter and only 25 for the half, so that was really good to do against a team like that. We said it was defense and rebounding that got us there, and we really wanted to lock in on that.”

Sophomore Guard Kiki Smith
On how the team responded to Auburn’s defensive pressure
“I feel like we responded well. Coming out, we didn’t know what to expect. We haven’t seen any pressure like that before this season, so as far as their press, I feel like we handled it well. It could’ve been better, but I feel like we did improve as well.”

On her shooting today…
“I’ve just been feeling it. Like Coach Cam tells us to, always keep shooting. He (Coach Newbauer) said I was going to get open shots, so I just took them.”

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