Gators Spoil Mizzou’s Senior Day Behind Correa’s Career-Day

The Gators spoiled Missouri’s senior day on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Tigers in Mizzou Arena, 61-52, to close out the regular season.
Leilani Correa put together a career-day to lead Florida (16-13, 5-11 SEC), ending with 17 points and a career-best 16 rebounds, to go along with five assists. She was joined by fellow senior KK Deans in double-figures, as the Greensboro, N.C., native tallied 13 points, five assists and four rebounds. The Gators assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals, ending the day 19-of-62 (30.6%) from the floor and 9-of-33 (27.3%) from deep.
As impressive as Correa’s day was, Florida’s defense was equally as impressive, holding Missouri (17-12, 6-10) to 19-of-56 (33.9%) from the field and just 4-of-23 (17.4%) from long range. The Gators forced 14 turnovers, resulting in 15 points for the Orange & Blue, while they took care of the ball themselves, giving it up just 10 times.
For the second-straight game, the Gators were also in control on the board, holding a 45-39 edge on the class, including 17 offensive boards, resulting in an 18-2 second-chance points advantage. Correa’s 16 boards led the way with Jordyn Merritt tallying 11, Ra Shaya Kyle pulling-down five and Deans ending with four.
Mizzou came out and showed the Gators zone pressure from the start, which immediately helped Deans find an open slot for a triple from the right wing to give the Orange & Blue the game-opening lead. The Gators took a 9-7 advantage into the media timeout, but the Tigers utilized an 11-0 run coming out of the break to take a 17-9 lead with 1:40 left in the first. A pair of free throws from Correa would bring Florida back within six, 17-11, at the end of the opening frame.
The Gators got a much-needed boost heading into the second period, starting with a 6-0 run that was capped-off by a Myka Perry and-one, to even the game at 17. Correa gave UF their first lead since the 5:44 mark of the first quarter following a corner triple with 4:54 left on the clock, extending Florida’s run to 11-2. With seconds remaining, Jeriah Warren swiped the ball on Mizzou’s final possession and launched a pass ahead for Correa, who connected on a layup as time expired to give Florida a 30-23 halftime edge.
Defensively, the Orange & Blue were impressive in the second frame, holding the Tigers to 3-of-13 (23.1%) shooting while holding them to 0-of-4 from behind the arc. Florida also forced five turnovers, resulting in a key eight points. Correa paced the Gators with 13 points and eight rebounds across the first 20 minutes.
Florida grabbed an 11-point lead following a Kyle layup with 7:23 left on the clock in the third, but the Tigers would get four-straight to bring the game back within seven just under two minutes later. Deans took all of the air out of Mizzou Arena at the 3:56 mark, throwing up a desperation three as the shot clock expired, and draining it, to make it 41-31. The Tigers managed to take back momentum, trimming the lead to six late in the period, but they left too much space for Deans up top, as the senior knocked-down a straight-on three as time expired to make it 46-37 in favor of the Gators with 10 minutes left to play.
It was a defensive struggle to start the final frame, as Missouri pulled within seven by scoring three points across three-and-a-half minutes compared to Florida’s lone free throw from Perry. Rimdal quickly put an end to Florida’s offensive drought, however, draining a corner three at the 6:51 mark to push the lead back to 10, 50-40. The Tigers would claw back within seven, but wouldn’t be able stop Florida’s offense, with the Gators holding on for a 61-52 victory to close the regular season.
Up Next
The Gators will await their seeding fate and open SEC Tournament play on either Wednesday, Mar. 1 or Thursday, Mar. 2 in Greenville, S.C.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On Leilani Correa’s performance…
“She’s a smaller Shaquille O’Neal. That’s just will and desire, and I’m really happy for Leilani. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for her, but the way that she perseveres and the way that she’s learned to ask for help, I’m really proud of her. It’s really hard to come back from an injury mid-season, especially in conference when you haven’t played in the SEC before, so what she’s trying to do for has been remarkable. She’s just a big-time player and she showed that tonight.”
On how she feels about the last few games…
Well, I would say it’s been the last two weeks now. I felt really good about the way we competed against South Carolina, even though it wasn’t a win, and LSU. I thought that those games helped us to understand that our only focus, as cliché as it may sound, is to play hard, be connected, play for each other and embrace the moment. That’s what we’re doing.”
On Sunday’s victory…
“We had talked about rebounding, I was proud of the way we played, but to have 16 assists and 10 turnovers on 19 made field goals, that’s pretty good. We’re kind of coming into our own and understanding how to play with each other. We didn’t have an offseason, and nobody cares about excuses, but we didn’t have an offseason where we got to play with each other. With so many transfers and a different dynamic to our team, it really hurt us with Jordyn and Leilani going out midseason, but Jordyn had 11 rebounds today that were big-time. Top-to-bottom I would say, I told our team in the locker room thank you for being so selfless. It’s really fun to coach a team like that.”
– Florida picks-up their third win all-time against Missouri and second in Columbia.  
– The Gators will either be the No. 10 seed or No. 11 seed in Greenville, depending on the outcome in Auburn. If the Tigers defeat Vanderbilt, Florida will be the No. 11 seed in Greenville and open against Kentucky on Wednesday, Mar. 1 in the second game of the day.
– With the victory, Florida now holds 37 wins over the last two seasons, tying the most wins over two seasons since 2015-16 season and 2016-17 season.
– Leilani Correa recorded her first double-double in a Florida uniform, and eighth-career, with 17 points and 16 rebounds.
– Florida improves to 24-0 under Kelly Rae Finley when holding opponents to 60 points or less.