BY: Jenna Ladd
Even though the Florida Gators dominated in the first half of the game, the Louisiana State Tigers came back to lead them to take a close 68-65 win in their first SEC conference game on Friday night in front of 1,620 fans in the Stephen O’Connell Center.
Kayla Lewis ruled the paint on Friday night making a total of 17 points. Not far behind, Ronni Wiliams put up 14 points. Haley Lorenzen set a personal record of nine rebounds against the Tigers and had nine points as well. Carlie Needles contributed a solid 10 points, six of which came from outside of the arc.
In the first five minutes of the game the Gators demolished the Tigers with a 14-0 run, looking like they would take an easy first conference win. However, that was not the case. The Tigers came back fighting, and continuously narrowed the Gator lead while keeping them from pulling away as they caught up. In the end of the first half, the Tigers managed to tie up the game at 30 going into halftime.
Coming back from halftime, the score bounced back and forth. That is, until Florida fell into a shooting slump while Louisiana pulled away with a 7-0 run with 11:44 to play. The Gators could not capitalize on their opportunities and in the second half their shooting percentage dropped from 44.0% in the first half to 35.5%.
The Louisiana Tigers held their largest lead of seven points at 59-52 with 4:33 left to play, however the Florida Gators were not discouraged and managed to close in the final minute of the game. With 29 seconds left, the Gators trailed just one point to the Tigers after a 3-pointer by Needles, turning it into a game of free throws. In the final seconds of the game, Florida was able to get two free throws in by January Miller, but it was not enough to come back. Unfortunately for the Gators, DaShawn Harden of Louisiana nailed a total of four free throws, ultimately winning the Tigers the game.
“When you make a defensive change, there has to be talk and I think that is what you saw… was just a very overt case of nobody was talking to each other,” Lewis said.
In the end, Florida could not take the victory after giving up the first half despite having such a strong start. They could not adjust to Louisiana’s defensive changes and full-court pressure enough to come out with the conference win. From here, the road for the Gators will not get any easier, as they will be playing some of the best, well-coached teams in the South Eastern Conference.
“The long and short of it is, you’re on this SEC ride now and you’ve got real quick turnarounds and you’ve got to figure out what you didn’t do well and how to correct it and get ready for the next one,” head coach Butler said. “You can’t hang your head or pout and cry because the next team is going to present you with the same amount of, if not more, challenges.”
The Gators’ next game is set for Sunday, January 4 against Auburn at 4:00 p.m. If you are unable to travel to Alabama, the game will be televised on SEC Network.