Gators Battle, but Fall 96-77 to No. 11 South Carolina

Despite getting off to a strong start and leading by as many as nine in the first quarter, the University of Florida women’s basketball team dropped a 96-77 decision to No. 11 South Carolina Sunday afternoon at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

For the first time this season Florida featured five double digit scorers as redshirt-senior Funda Nakkasoglu netted a team-high 19 while Delicia Washington added her fourth double-double of the season with a 12 point, 10 rebound performance. Danielle Rainey scored 15 points off the bench, including eight first quarter points, while Zada Williams and Kiki Smith added 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Florida recorded 40 points in the paint, its second-highest total of the season, and won the battle of the boards, but couldn’t slow down the Gamecocks who finished the game shooting 59 percent from the floor. South Carolina, which entered the game averaging just north of six 3-pointers per game, knocked down nine of its 19 attempts from distance, shooting 47.4 percent.

UF trailed just 54-52 with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter after Nakkasoglu scored three of her seven points in the frame, but the Gamecocks closed on a 19-8 run and carried 73-60 lead into the fourth. South Carolina padded its lead by outscoring Florida, 23-17 in the fourth.

Florida finished the game shooting 42.9% percent from the floor including a 64 percent mark on two-point field goals and finished with the highest point total it has registered during SEC play.

USC shot at least 50 percent from the field all in all four periods.

Nakkasoglu, scoring in double figures for the 19th time this season, converted on six of her seven attempts from the charity stripe while Rainey finished with 15 or more points for the fifth time this season.

After trailing early, 14-7, Florida scored 11 consecutive points to take an 18-14 lead. South Carolina knocked down six of its first seven shots but the Gators held their ground and withstood the early scoring barrage. Fueled by its aggressive offense, Florida led 25-18 at the end of the first. The Gators utilized an 18-4 run to end the quarter as they took it to the Gamecocks who played in their third game of the week.

Florida came out focused on attacking the rim from the onset as it recorded 16 of its first quarter points in the painted area. The Gators, shooting 52.6 percent in the opening quarter, racked up 25 first quarter points which were their most since equaling that total in the opening quarter at Alabama on Jan. 3. Rainey, appearing off the bench for the first time since Jan. 24 vs. Mississippi State, scored seven of the Gators’ first 14 points.

After building a lead as large as nine in the first quarter, Florida saw the visiting Gamecocks catch fire offensively as they shot 57.6 percent in the second. The Gamecocks scored on six straight possessions to grab a 34-32 lead, their first advantage since it was 14-13 in their favor. At the half Florida trailed 48-40 as South Carolina outscored the Gators 30-15 in the second. Eight Gators scored in the first half led by Nakkasoglu’s nine and Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Destanni Henderson each added 14 first half points for USC.

UF scored the first points of the second half on a Williams put back and score. After the teams battled back and forth, Nakkasoglu scored five points in a row to bring the Gators to within a possession at 54-52. The Gamecocks countered with a 13-2 run and began to separate themselves from Florida. The Gators hung tough as Nakkasoglu scored seven points in the quarter, but USC held the edge 30-25 and carried a 73-60 lead into the final period of play.

Alexis Jennings scored a game-best 22 points as she paced a group of four double-digit scorers for USC.

Smith finished with a team-high five dimes on the game, her most since Jan. 27 vs. Arkansas.

Washington scored in double figures for the third time in the last four games. 

No. 11 South Carolina improves to 19-6 on the season and 11-1 in SEC play.

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  • UF’s 77 points were the most it has scored in SEC play.
  • Florida’s 25 first quarter points were its most since scoring 25 in the opening quarter at Alabama on Jan. 3.
  • The Gators’ 40 points in the point were their most since scoring a season-high 42 against Northeastern on Nov. 18, 2018. 
  • Funda Nakkasoglu finished with 19 points, her 19th game in double figures this season.
  • Delicia Washington (12 points, 10 rebounds) tallied her fourth double double of the season and the 11th of her Gator career.
  • Washington has recorded 10 or more points in three of her last four games.
  • Florida outrebounded South Carolina 39-36. This is the 12th game this season that the Gators have outrebounded their opponent.
  • Zada Williams finished with 14 points, the most she has scored since scoring a career-high 18 points against Charleston Southern on December 30, 2018
  • Danielle Rainey finished with 15 points and has finished in double digits in four of the last six games.
  • Florida featured five double-figure scorers for the first time this season.
  • Florida has finished with four or more double-figure scorers in back to back games for the first time this season.
  • Florida featured its 10th different starting lineup of the season.
  • Washington earned a starting nod for the first time since Jan. 20 at Ole Miss.
  • Sunday marked Florida’s annual Play4Kay game and the team wore its pink jerseys for the first time this season.

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

On the team’s overall effort…
“We had 25 field goals that weren’t three’s and that is kind of new for us with us being able to score different ways at the rim. So, it’s not just different scorers stepping up, but it’s just us learning to score different ways as a team. We keep getting better. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, I know it because when you watch film, when you play a team like South Carolina as hard as we did for as long as we did, we can see it. We can see the fruits of our labor. It’s tough because we want to put so much stock in our record, but when you do that, you can get lost in the true growth that we are having individually and as a team. We keep fighting to win. We talk a lot about passion and purpose. Losing is not fun and it steals your passion when you get beat up, so you have to find something greater to compete for. That’s what these young ladies are doing, they’re finding a greater purpose to compete for each other to be better than what we were before. Even though the outcome isn’t what we wanted, I am just proud that they have the resolve to keep fighting for 40 minutes of that game.”

On the team’s improvement from last game against South Carolina to now . . .
“In both games we competed pretty hard. Tonight, we were more focused on trying to be aggressive in wanting to attack and come out of the gates focused on trying to make them stop us. It’s a testament to our players’ toughness that we showed coming out of the gate and really being aggressive and attacking. The purpose of a zone is to slow us down and it did its job against us. It took us a second to get adjusted and I thought we got really good shots, but they just didn’t go down. But I liked how aggressive we played for the entire game.”

Redshirt-Junior Zada Williams 
On battling a tough opponent like South Carolina…
“Tremendous effort by South Carolina. They are tough kids. It was more of a mental thing for me and Paige (Robinson) as well. We just go in, post up hard, and just give it our best. We can’t score if we don’t post up hard and get the ball. That was our mentality for this game.”

On the team’s play in the first half vs. the second half…
“I think us being stagnant when they went into zone kind of hurt us the most. Not moving on weak sides, not being able to find open people. I think we just have to work hard on our zone offense.”

Redshirt-sophomore Danielle Rainey
On what was working well at the beginning of the game…
 “I think it was mainly our energy. We came out of the gate swinging and I think that’s the biggest thing for us because sometimes we do start off a little slow. I think we had a different mentality coming into this game because we knew it was a game we could win. We just came out throwing the first punch and I think South Carolina was a little shocked that that’s how we came out. But that’s what it was for us.”

Redshirt-Senior Funda Nakkasoglu 
On the effectiveness of her mid-range jumper today…
“I think I just needed to use it. My three’s were obviously not falling today so I needed to find something else in my game that could help to produce points. I was getting really good screens by my post men and the defense were staying off them. My mid-range game was more open today.”

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