By: Jenna Ladd
After a rough start, the Florida Gators had a close loss to the Wisconsin Badgers at 48-51 on Wednesday night in the Stephen O’Connell Center in front of 1,679 fans, one of their largest crowds this season.
“They did a good job of getting up and challenging us,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “Our biggest disappointment was that as pitiful as we were offensively, our transition defense was truly disappointing. That’s how they set the tone for the second half, and we weren’t able to regain that momentum.”
January Miller led the Gator scoreboard with a total of 12; six of those 12 came from outside the arc. Freshman Haley Lorenzen led the team in rebounds, bringing back eight against the Badgers. Another freshman, Brooke Copeland, put up seven points for the Gators and was the second-leading scorer. Because Cassie Peoples was out for the first half due to a team rule violation, she was only able to put up two points during the second half.
The Badger defense came on strong and did not let up on the Gators, putting them in the lead for the majority of the game. Even though the Gators were able to nab back the lead coming in to halftime, it did not give them the momentum they needed.
Wisconsin stole the lead right off the bat, putting up 5 points over Florida within the first two and a half minutes of the game. Florida did end up stealing back a short-lived, one-point lead for two minutes. However, the Gators gave up the lead once again, and this time they let the Badgers run away with it.
By the time there was 9:43 left in the first half, the Gators trailed the Badgers 10-16. After back-to-back layups by Bannister, the momentum took a shift in Florida’s favor. The game tied up at 18-18 with 6:42 left, giving the Gators hope of taking the lead into halftime. After the score tied up, it bounced back and forth before Florida ended up pulling away with a two-point lead of 31-29 in the end of the first half.
Going into the second half, the Gators struggled to put up points against the Badgers’ relentless defense. Wisconsin’s momentum picked up fast as the team put up a 12-4 run coming into the first half. After trailing the majority of the second half, the Gators came back fighting. A lot of their forward momentum came after Peoples checked in with 13:15 remaining in the second half starting with Lorenzen nailing a layup just a minute after Peoples came in.
The Badgers started to take off once again after that layup however, putting up eight more points before Florida scored again with two free throws and a layup by Kayla Lewis. Ronni Williams and Copeland picked up on Lewis’ momentum and with 2-pointers of their own, bringing in the score to a four-point difference of 45-49. After a free throw by Carlie Needles and two free throws by Peoples, the game turned into a one-point game with just 37 seconds left.
Unfortunately for the Gators, this game was not a Cinderella story and the Badgers sunk another layup on an offensive rebound with just five seconds left. Peoples went for a 3-pointer, trying to tie the game up at the buzzer, but hit the rim putting the final score at 48-51.