By Jenna Ladd
The Florida Gators broke their four-game losing streak with a 72-58 win on Sunday afternoon against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. The Gators now stand at .500 overall with a record of 10-10, 2-5 SEC this season.
Sunday’s leading scorers against the Razorbacks were Carlie Needles and January Miller who each put up 16 points for the Gators. Redshirt senior Kayla Lewis was also in double-digits, scoring a total of 10 points, while still raking in six rebounds and two steals.
The players are accrediting their time off as to why they were able to come off with such strong games. Needles said that she was excited for their team to finally be able to translate what they practice into the games and actually being able to carry out their game plan. Miller said that since she was attacking more and having more of a drive to her playing is why she was able to see success.
“We approach every game the same way,” Lewis said. “We just needed to get our bodies right. We took two complete days off. Coach Butler told everyone not to come in and to use this unique opportunity (a bye week). When we all came back in on Wednesday we were ready to go. [Practice] was very specific, very detail-oriented and everyone worked very hard. Our biggest problem has been practice. It’s been carrying practice over into a game.”
Coming into this game Florida had an advantage of having a mid-week bye, giving the team more time to prepare and get after it in practice. According to head coach Amanda Butler, that time off had a lot to do with the Gators winning performance against the Razorbacks.
“I think we played really well,” head coach Butler said. “I’m really proud of not only the way we performed today, but also the way practiced for three days. I think our team really maximized this week and carried over what we worked on into the game. That was really important. It’s something we haven’t done so well this year. But that’s what we want to see – progress.”
From the beginning of the game, the Gators were determined to break their losing streak and broke ahead with a 12-3 run by the first media timeout. During that run, freshman Haley Lorenzen went 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
Florida gained it’s largest lead of the game at the 5:47 mark of the first frame with a three-pointer by January Miller, pushing the Gators to a 17-point lead at 30-13. Not long after Miller’s trey, Carlie Needles came back with a triple of her own that put her at 142 for her career. Although that was when Florida first accomplished their largest lead, it was able to come back to a 17-point lead four different times in the first half of the game.
With the Gators pushing strong to make a change in their season record, they were able to confidently walk into the locker room at halftime with a 41-24 lead over the Razorbacks.
In the second half of the game, the Gators did not let up on the Razorbacks. The closest Arkansas was able to get was an eight-point deficit with just under seven minutes remaining in the game. However, Florida was able to pull away and close out and win the game with a double-digit, confidence boosting lead.
“What we want to see are trends in the right direction and this was a big step for a team that we felt was just a couple steps away from being really, really good,” Butler said. “I think we took a giant step in the right direction. I’m just really, really proud of our entire team effort and preparation, as well.”
Florida’s next game will be on Thursday, January 29 at 7 p.m. against SEC opponent Missouri at home in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. This game will not be televised, but is available to watch online via SECNetwork+.