Gators Fight, but Fall 83-73 to Razorbacks

The University of Florida women’s basketball team fell 83-73 to Arkansas Sunday afternoon at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in a back-and-forth contest that saw seven lead changes and four ties.
Florida built a lead as large as 15 points in the second quarter but wasn’t able to slow down the high-octane Razorbacks who scored 80 or more points for the ninth time this season.
The Gators drained 12 three-pointers, dished out a season-high 17 assists and outrebounded their opponent for the fourth-straight game, but Arkansas scored 58 points in the second and third quarters combined to claim its fourth-consecutive win.
Danielle Rainey and Kiki Smith both enjoyed standout performances as they combined to score 33 points, and knock down seven triples. Rainey established new career highs in points with 17 and rebounds with 11 while Smith registered a career-high 16 points to go with 10 rebounds. Both Smith and Rainey notched their first career double doubles.
Redshirt-senior Funda Nakkasoglu quietly put together another 20-point performance, her ninth time with at least 20 this season, draining four 3-pointers and handing out four assists. The Australian scored 16 points in the second half alone as she spearheaded a spirited Florida effort.
Florida started off the game strong, leading 19-7 after the first quarter.
Nine of the 10 Gators to see the floor registered a point and Florida finished the game shooting 40.3 percent (27-of-67) from the floor. Florida held the edge in rebounds, assists, three-pointers and bench points but Arkansas shot more free throws and held a wide margin in terms of points in the paint.

Florida’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak vs. Arkansas.
To open the game, Florida made five of its first 10 shots while Arkansas started just two of 14 from the floor. Florida’s 12 point advantage was its largest lead after the conclusion of the first quarter since Jan. 3 at Alabama when it led 25-8.
The Gators carried the momentum into the second as Emanuely de Oliveira swished a three-pointer from the wing to give Florida a 15 point advantage. But Arkansas employed the first of its two major scoring runs to narrow the deficit back to singles digit at 29-20.
After Smith’s third 3-pointer of the first half, Florida led by 10 at 32-22 with four minutes to play in the second, but the Razorbacks utilized a 16-3 run to close the half and carry a slight lead, 37-35, at the break. Arkansas made its final six shots, including a three-pointer off the fingertips of Jailyn Mason as the first half buzzer sounded. Seven different Gators registered points in the first half as Smith led all scorers with 14. Smith drilled a career-high four treys in the first half alone.

The Razorbacks scored 30 points in the second quarter which tied Florida’s season high for most points allowed in a quarter.
Arkansas connected on 78.6 percent (11-of-14) of its shots in the second period and followed that up with 66.7 percent shooting third quarter as it began to pull away from the Gators.
The Gators hung tough with the hot-shooting Razorbacks by shooting 42.1 percent (8-of-19) in the third quarter.
The third quarter featured an up-tempo pace as each squad scored at least 20 points in the frame. The lead changed hands four times and the score was tied three times. A Nakkasoglu free throw put the Gators ahead 50-49 with under five minutes to play in the third but the Razorbacks closed with a 16-6 run to give them a 65-56 edge heading into the fourth.
The Gators would narrow the Arkansas advantage to just five on three separate occasions in the final stanza, but the defensive stop they needed eluded them down the stretch. Rainey and Nakkasoglu led the fourth quarter charge, adding a pair of three-pointers each.
The Gators now embark on a two-game road swing which begins Thursday, Jan. 31 at Tennessee and concludes at No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday.

Up Next
Thurs. Jan. 31 | 7 p.m.
Florida (5-15, 1-6) vs. Tennessee (13-7, 2-5)
Thompson-Boling Arena | Knoxville, Tenn.

  • Florida has held the edge in rebounding in four-straight games and seven of their last nine overall.
  • The Gators have featured three or more in double figures in three of the last four games.
  • Florida has finished with at least 10 three-pointers in three of its seven conference tilts.
  • Florida led Arkansas 19-7 after the first quarter which marked the Gators’ first lead after the opening period since they led Auburn 17-16 on January 6th.
  • Kiara Smith has hit a 3-pointer in five of her last seven games, totaling 11 three-pointers over that span.
  • Smith scored 16 points and 11 rebounds to record her first career double-double. She hit four three-pointers, a career high.
  • Danielle Rainey racked up her first collegiate double-double as well with with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Rainey has 15 or more points in three of the last four games.
  • Florida’s 17 assists set a new season high.
  • The Gators finished with 43 rebounds, their eighth time this season recording at least 40 rebounds.
  • Zada Williams tied her career high with three steals.
  • Funda Nakksoglu finished with at least 20 points for the ninth time this season.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement
“I was really proud of our effort and fight today. We had some adversity with fouls, but I felt like we did a terrific job of continuing to fight and staying the course. It was good to see Kiki and Danielle get double-doubles. It was a fantastic game for them. We just had a couple moments at the wrong time where we didn’t get a rebound when we needed to or had an untimely turnover, but that’s part of the growth process. Overall, it was a great experience for us tonight. We’ll be back in the gym on Tuesday and we’ll be fighting. A lot of really good things to take from tonight, and we’ll keep building from this. One of these moments, we are going to get over that hump and we’ll get that stop or great possession at the right time, and it’s going to be for our benefit, I know that.”

On controlling the pace of the game and Arkansas . . . 
“That’s what Arkansas does. Not to put words in their mouth, but they want to get as many shots up as they can and as quick as they can. It’s what makes them so hard to guard and we knew it was going to be 40 minutes of sprints. It wears you down and they’re fantastic about it. Their pace definitely gave us some problems for sure.”

On the team’s three-point shooting . . .
“It was great because at the half, Ari, Funda and Danielle hadn’t hit a three and that was one thing we talked about was staying the course and staying confident in your abilities, so to have them come out and hit 7 in the second half was great for them to gain confidence and know that they have it in themselves.”

Sophomore Guard Kiara “Kiki” Smith
On her success shooting today… 
“I honestly just felt good. My teammates were finding me because they knew I was making them, and they just kept finding me. I let it fly.”

On Florida’s 17 assists and how important ball movement is within the system. 
“Ball movement is very important. A lot of the times, the plays that we run, we execute really well. And tonight we did a really good job of doing that. We know how to get our teammates the ball when they are open and when they’re hot.  I think this is one strength that this team really does have.”
Redshirt-Sophomore Guard Danielle Rainey 
On the team’s success rebounding 
“Cam and the staff and the players, we have just all been on each other about rebounding because I think that’s a strength for our team overall. We do a lot of drills in practice that simulate game-like situations, and it always involves rebounding. We’ll do a lot of drills where we never really understand the meaning of it until we get into the game and actually do it. So I think we’ve just done a good job of holding each other accountable, especially with Delicia Washington being out. I think we all had to step up this game, and that’s exactly what we did.”
On earning her first career start and when she found out she would be starting…
“I really had no clue, honestly. That’s not really a focus that I have. I think, whether I come off the bench or start, the biggest thing is just bringing what we need that day or that game. Like I said, when I was starting, I was like ‘whoop dee doo,’ but the biggest thing for this game was that I needed to make sure I stepped up and helped my teammates step up today, and make us better as a team.”

Redshirt-Senior Guard Funda Nakkasoglu
On the team’s success shooting three-pointers…
“I think we’re really moving the ball well. Throughout plays, we’re getting the looks that we want. They went down today. We’ve practiced three’s nonstop in practice, and we always make them in practice. I think it’s just that mentality and confidence, knowing that we can hit them in the games as well. As a team, we just really did a good job with that.”

On her first half shooting compared to her second half performance…
“I think it’s just all of us and the team just being around and being positive. It really gets us going at halftime in the locker room. I think it’s just the confidence we have in all of our abilities and each other, and I think that’s what makes us such a good group of girls and awesome teammates.”

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