Short-Handed Gators Battle But Fall to Villanova in WNIT Second Round

Box Score (PDF) | Highlights 

CHARLOTTE, NC – Despite double-figure scoring efforts from three players, the University of Florida women’s basketball team fell 77-57 to Villanova late Saturday night inside of Bojangles Coliseum in the WNIT’s second round.
The short-handed Gators battled but could not slow down the Wildcats who improved to 17-6 on the season and earned a spot in the Charlotte regional finale.
Playing without the services of two starters who were not able to compete due to health and safety protocols for the second-straight game, Florida’s already tightened rotation of eight players would be worn even thinner with foul trouble and injuries. And off the heels of last night’s win over Charlotte, UF ran out of gas late in the game. The Gators hung tough in what a very physical matchup with the Wildcats for three quarters but saw Villanova outscore them 16-9 in the fourth quarter and pull away.

Posting a career-high 13 points and a career-high nine rebounds, junior guard Kristina Moore led the Gators in both categories. Senior Kiki Smith, totaling double-figure points for the 25th time in 26 games played, added 10 while classmate Danielle Rainey chipped in with 12.
Making its second most free throws of the season, Florida shot a crisp 22-of-26 from the charity stripe but made only 34 percent of its attempts overall while the Wildcats registered a 45 percent shooting percentage. 
The Big East’s leading scorer, Madison Siegrist, led all scorers with 26 points to go with 11 boards and five assists.
Four UF players scored nine or more points as freshman Jordyn Merritt added nine points and six rebounds but fouled out of the contest early in the final period.
Villanova jumped out to a quick 8-3 lead as the Gators missed their first five shots while the Wildcats started 3-of-5. The Gators trailed 14-9 at the game’s first media timeout with makes on just two of their first 10 attempts. Smith converted an old fashioned three-point play to put the Gators ahead 17-16 with 1:44 to play in the frame, providing the Gators with a jolt of energy. The momentum swung back to Villanova though as Siegrist scored on a layup with six seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead 20-19 after the opening 10 minutes. Six different Gators scored and they made five of their final 11 shots in the quarter following the slow start.
The Wildcats converted four of their first five shots to open the second and built a 29-21 edge just two minutes in. After a called timeout from the Gators, Villanova established its first double-figure lead at 31-21 midway through the stanza. An impressive drive and finish at the rim from Moore broke the Wildcats’ run and Florida whittled the lead back down to seven late in the frame.
Florida trailed 41-30 heading into the intermission after the Wildcats won the second quarter, 21-11. The Gators struggled to shoot it in the early going, posting just a 31.3 field goal percentage but remained in striking distance thanks to a 9-of-10 performance from the free throw line. Villanova finished the first half shooting an even 50 percent from the floor (18-of-36) and Siegrist led all scorers with 14 points. The Australian Moore was very active with nine points and four rebounds.
The teams played to an even 11-11 tally in the first five minutes of the second half but Villanova led 52-41 at the under five-minute media stoppage. Despite a spirited effort from the Gators, the Wildcats carried a 61-48 advantage into the final stanza. UF made 50 percent of its shot in the third and made eight of its nine free throws, but couldn’t slice into the VU lead as the Wildcats continued to produce offensively.
The Wildcats, who saw 11 players appear in the matchup, scored the first five points of the fourth to take their lead to 66-48 and would never look back as they firmly separated themselves in the final stanza. Smith, nursing an injury, checked out of the game at the 6:52 mark and did not return while Merritt fouled with 7:27 to play. Without their senior floor general on the court and playing without one of its up-and-coming talents, Florida struggled to score and hold onto the ball late in the game.
Villanova, which shot a blistering 54 percent from three-point range in its opening round win over UMass, registered a 52.9 percent mark from the floor in the second quarter when it began to put distance between itself and UF. The Wildcats, who finished 9-5 in the Big East this season, had 19 assists on 29 field goals.

Brynn Farrell tallied seven points off the UF bench and made three free throws. 
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Overall thoughts on the game…
“I’m really proud of our group and how they all came together and competed over these last few days because it hasn’t been easy for us. Tonight we ran out of gas at the end. Can’t say enough about our seniors and how hard they played all season long in this challenging year. We ran into a talented Villanova team that is playing their best basketball in March and has one of the country’s best scorers in Siegrist. All the credit to them. Even tonight when we have to battle through a ton of adversity, our team never stopped fighting and that’s something I’m thankful for. The postseason experience we gained this year will help us as we continue to grow our program. Thanks again to our medical professionals and administration for everything they did to make this season possible.”

  • Florida falls to 15-8 all time in the WNIT and is 4-2 in second round play.
  • Florida is now 1-1 against Villanova all time.
  • Kristina Moore set a new career best with 13 points and a career-best 12 points.
  • Kiki Smith finished the season with 25 double-figure scoring efforts in 26 games.
  • Danielle Rainey scored 10 or more points for the 14th time in her career.
  • Florida’s 22 made free throws were its second most of the season and most since Nov. 25 in its season opener vs. Grambling State.

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