Florida’s Season Comes to Close in WNIT Quarterfinal Round

Florida women’s basketball saw their impressive postseason run come to an end on Monday evening, falling to Bowling Green in front of a near-record crowd at the Stroh Center, 69-52.
Leilani Correa paced the Gators (19-15) offensively with 20 points to go along with five rebounds and two steals, while KK Deans and Jordyn Merritt each added nine for the Orange & Blue. The Gators ended the day shooting 19-of-53 (35.8%) from the field and 7-of-21 (33.3%) from three-point range, led by three from Deans.
Florida moved the ball well, assisting on 13 of their 19 made baskets. Deans dished-out seven on the evening to lead the charge and Alberte Rimdal tallied three of her own. Merritt continued to hold down the glass for Florida, ending with a team-best 10 rebounds. Correa and Deans both pulled-down five of their own, but the Falcons held a 47-35 edge on the boards.
Defensively, the Gators forced Bowling Green (31-6) into 16 turnovers after the Falcons entered the game averaging 12. The defensive effort resulted in 13 steals, with Deans once again leading the way with three and four others in the Orange & Blue swiping away two. For the game, Bowling Green shot 27-of-71 (38.0%) from the floor and just 6-of-26 (23.1%) from deep.
Amy Velasco was the leader on the court for the Falcons, ending with 18 points, five assists and two rebounds. Elissa Brett recorded 16 points and nine boards for BGSU.
The Stroh Center was rocking after a game-opening triple from the Falcons, but Florida quickly hushed the crowd with a 9-0 response, capped off by a layup from Nina Rickards with 7:04 on the clock, to take a 9-3 lead. After a Rimdal triple at the 6:29 mark, Bowling Green stepped-up their defense and held the Gators scoreless for five minutes while closing the gap to one, 12-11. Correa put an end to the run with a layup off of a dime from Deans, but the last four points of the frame would go to the Falcons who took a 15-14 lead into the second quarter.
Deans kickstarted Florida’s scoring effort in the second, draining a triple before Correa knocked-down a midrange jumper to help UF regain the lead, 19-15, with 7:38 showing on the clock. The Falcons once again had an answer, however, putting together a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead with 5:42 left in the half, 22-19.
Trailing 22-20 late in the period, Correa took over the game for the Gators, scoring the next six points to will the Orange & Blue to a 26-22 advantage with just over two minutes remaining. Deans extended the lead to seven 30 seconds later with her third triple of the game, helping the Gators to hold-off two late triples by Bowling Green for a 31-28 lead at the end of the first half. The Falcons, who only average just over 12 turnovers per game, were forced into 12 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
Both squads exchanged blows for the first 4:40 of the third before an and-one opportunity from Velasco gave Bowling Green their first lead of the half, 37-35, with 5:21 to go. Velasco was responsible for 9-0 run from the Falcons that forced a Florida timeout at the 3:27 mark, extending their lead to 41-35. The Falcons kept the Gators at arm’s length over the remaining three minutes, holding a 50-42 edge with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Jordyn Merritt connected on a triple to begin the fourth quarter, bringing the Gators within seven, but that’s as close as Florida would get with Bowling Green pulling-away for a 69-52 victory in the quarterfinal round of the WNIT.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On her feelings regarding her team after the postseason run…
“Oh man, I love them. I feel really proud to be their coach and tonight didn’t go the way we had wanted it to, but hats-off to Bowling Green, they’re a very talented basketball team, but I though we ran out of gas a little bit. We don’t make excuses in this program, but we’ve been on the road for two weeks straight and they out-hustled us in a lot of areas we had been excelling in, and then we were pretty hesitant all evening. Places we’ve really improved, like making second efforts and multiple efforts to the ball, we were just slow to the ball tonight.”
On what playing deep into March means for the program…
“It’s everything to us. We just talked to the team about connecting the dots and using this to propel us forward. If this is the weekend we want to be playing on next season in the NCAA Tournament, we’ve got to feel what it feels like and overcome mental and physical fatigue while understanding what it takes to be playing on March 27 and clear into April. If April is when we want to be playing, this is a great step for our program moving forward.”
On the fan support for the Gators all season…
“Thank you all so much for coming out and showing up for us. We had adversity and you all always showed up. It’s the difference and it’s why we play, and why we want to put a team on the basketball court that Gator Nation can be proud of.”
– Florida ends their season with the longest postseason run since the 2013 campaign when they advanced to the WNIT semifinal.
– Florida secured back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
– The Gators also ended with the most wins over a two-season period (40) since the 2012-13/2013-14 season when they tallied 42 wins.
– Florida collected six road victories during the 2022-23 season and seven during the 2021-22 season, marking the first time with at least six wins on the road in back-to-back seasons since the 2000-01/2001-02 campaigns.
– With three triples on the evening, KK Deans ends her season with 77 made threes, the seventh-most by a Gator in a season.
– Deans also ends the season shooting 38.3% from long range, the fifth-best season from deep by a Gator and best by a senior in school history.
– Alberte Rimdal ends her season with 50 made triples, tying her for the fourth-most in a season by a sophomore at Florida.