The Florida women’s’ basketball team (13-7, 2-4 SEC) suffered their third consecutive loss in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Thursday evening as Ole Miss (8-11, 1-5 SEC) ended their five-game losing streak against the Gators. The Rebels defeated the Gators 88-81 to earn their first conference win of the season.
Ole Miss was on fire from behind the line hitting 9 out of their 10 shots in the first half alone. The Rebels ended the game hitting 11-of-16 while the Gators were just 38.5% for shooting. Florida only made 30 of 78 shots on the evening and were outrebounded by Ole Miss 48-44.
“We just got outplayed in every category today which is certainly my fault,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. “I didn’t do a good job of getting the team ready. You’ve got to give Ole Miss credit for the way they came here and the confidence they played with. I really admire their team and how hard they play for each other and the amount of pride that they play with, how unaffected they are when things don’t go their way-because things haven’t gone their way at all this season. It’s a great demonstration of maturity and how valuable the intangibles are.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Kayla Lewis led the Gators with a career-best 23 points as the guard was 9-for-13 from the field. Junior guard Jaterra Bonds along with freshmen guard January Miller and guard/forward Sydney Moss scored in double figures against the Rebels. Bonds notched16, Miller sank 14 and Moss put away 12 points.
“You got to dig deep down inside and want to do it for the team,” Bonds said about regrouping after their third consecutive loss. “I feel like we have the hardest working staff in the country. We need to come out and win, and we do it sometimes, but sometimes it gets you losses. Three losses at that- on your home court. I feel like if you want to be good and compete you have to do it every day no matter how you feel or how your day is going. You got to do it every day, not just sometimes.”
Moss notched seven rebounds while Bonds picked up six and Miller had three steals. Senior forward Jennifer George returned to the floor after missing the end of the Tennessee game and all of the South Carolina game. George finished the night with six points, five rebounds and four blocks.
In the beginning of the game, both teams exchanged points back and forth until the Rebels went on a 6-2 run to gain a 24-20 advantage over the Gators with nine and half minutes left in the first half. Miller then delivered for the Gators sinking a three to put Florida within one of the Rebels. Ole Miss didn’t let Florida get any closer than that as they hit nearly every shot taken to go into halftime with an 11-point advantage, 50-39. Ole Miss made more than half of their shots taken in the first half were only 15-of-44. The Rebels’ 50 points marked the most points allowed by the Gators this season in the first half.
The Rebels kept the same momentum going they had in the first half going on a 9-4 run to go up 65-51 over the Gators with 15 minutes left to go in the game. After Bonds fouled out of the game at 11:08 with 13 points and five rebounds, Miller stepped up for Florida picking up a steal and making a layup to cut the Gators’ deficit to 10, 68-58. The next play, Miller intercepted another steal to take the ball down the court and hit a jumper to pull Florida within 8 with nine minutes left. Miller then again for the third time came away with a steal and while she missed the layup, redshirted freshman guard Carlie Needles knocked down a three to pull Florida within 5, 68-63. With 8:35 remaining in the game, Ole Miss called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Ole Miss knocked down their 11th three to go back up by 8. Plays later, the Gators lost the ball on their possession, Moss stole it back and found Lewis who laid in a layup to pull Florida within 5, 76-71 with 7:54 left on the clock. George knocked down a shot to pull Florida within 4 with a little over five minutes left and a three from Lewis put the Gators within 3 with 3:30 left on the clock.
After the Gators lost the ball, Ole Miss took advantage of the lost possession, making the layup to put the Rebels up 78-73 with 3 minutes left on the clock. Ole Miss was fouled on their next possession and made both free throws to go up 80-73 with 2:38 remaining.
Moss was fouled on the next play and converted both free throws to put the Gators within 5, 80-75 with 2:26 remaining. After many loose balls and blocks, Ole Miss finally came up with the ball and called a timeout with 1:20 left on the clock.
The Rebels laid out a perfect plan as Ole Miss inbounded the ball and a layup was converted to put them ahead 82-75 with 1:17 left in the game. After a miss on Florida’s end, Ole Miss’s junior Valencia McFarland was fouled and McFarland sank one of the shots with a little over a minute left on the clock.
Moss responded with a jumper with exactly 1:00 left on the clock to put Florida within 6, 83-77. Ole Miss then put up a jumper to push back ahead by 8, 85-77 with 34 seconds left on the clock. After a quick shot attempt for Florida failed, Bonds picked up the rebound and put the ball in the hoop to cut Ole Miss’s lead to 85-79. With 27.3 seconds remaining the Gators called their final timeout. Ole Miss’s sophomore forward Danielle McCray was fouled on the next play who made both free throws.
Lewis responded with a layup and then a McCray turnover gave Florida their last ray of hope. Miller was fouled with 14 seconds left at the three-point line. Miller missed all three shots however and the Gators were forced to foul once Ole Miss got the ball back. Ole Miss’s sophomore forward Monique Jackson made 1-of-2 free throws to end the game in the Rebels’ favor, 88-81.
“We dug ourselves in a big hole in the first half and then the second half we came within three, four, five points and then we had turnovers, we gave up offensive rebounds, and those little plays that came up so big in the end lead us to have to foul,” Lewis said. “And they made free throws. Some of those players have bad free throw percentage, but they hit them. They came in clutch in the end so it’s tough. You got to make plays when it counts and it counted.”
The Gators now begin a four-game road test beginning 1 p.m. Sunday against No. 14 Georgia (16-3, 4-2 SEC) in the Stegeman Coliseum. The game will air on COX Sports/CSS.
“We clearly have a lot of things that we have to correct and have to grow up a lot,” Butler said. “It’s a very tough league and I’ve said this from the beginning, there are no bad teams. If you’re not ready to play, you’re going to lose. It doesn’t matter where you are, doesn’t matter whom it’s against. You’ve got to give Ole Miss a lot of credit and their coaches. They did a fantastic job.”
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at email@example.com.