Florida’s women’s basketball fell to No. 19 South Carolina on Sunday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, 52-44.
The absence of injured senior forward Jennifer George was noticeable as the Gators (13-6, 2-3 SEC) shot a season-low 29.8 percent (17-57) from the floor against the Gamecocks (16-3, 4-2 SEC) without their leading scorer and rebounder.
“We gave up 26 offensive rebounds and so I think there’s a lack of toughness,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “In some of the times it was poor decision making, you turn the ball over a ton and I think offensively our problems were very similar to our rebounding problems.”
The Gamecocks outrebounded the Gators 59-41, marking just the fourth time the Gators have been beaten on the boards this year. South Carolina leads the all-time series against the Gators 3-0. Florida has now lost their last two consecutive games after a heart-wrenching 78-75 overtime loss to No. 9 Tennessee in the O’Dome last Sunday.
The Gators began the game on a sour note, making only 1 of 14 shots to begin the game, while South Carolina grabbed an early eight-point lead. Junior center Vicky McIntyre sank the lone bucket for the Gators as Florida’s scoreboard was at a standstill for over the next six and a half minutes.
Junior guard Jaterra Bonds broke the Gators silence with 10:33 on the clock in the first half with a layup, putting Florida within six, 12-6. Bonds finished the game with a game-high 16 points. The Gamecocks began to pull away however after Florida went on to miss their next five shots in a row. Things didn’t get much better for the Gators by halftime either. By the time the Gators went into the locker room, South Carolina had gained a 24-17 lead.
“Obviously, very disappointed with the way we played, in particularly in the first half,” Butler said. “I thought we were just not ourselves. You don’t have time or room for that this time of year.”
Florida came out on the court for the second half ready to play as it gained within three points of the Gamecocks on two separate occasions. Bonds delivered for the Gators as her shot tied the game at 35-all.
“Jaterra fought really hard and was offensively in particular the one bright spot for us and had some moments where she was kind of our unstoppable offensive player,” Butler said.
Just as the Gators were beginning to keep the game close, Florida began to slip away again due to poor shooting and South Carolina put their lead back up to double-digits at 45-35.
Florida called a timeout after the Gamecocks gained a 10-point lead and McIntyre delivered a quick layup for the Gators out of the timeout with over nine minutes left in the game. Guard Sydney Moss followed McIntyre’s lead as the freshman tied for a team-high eight rebounds and added six points, converted on 1 of 2 from the free throw line to put Florida within seven.
The Gators kept chipping away at points and with 48.8 seconds left, the Gamecocks were called for an offensive foul with only a three-point lead, 45-42. With Florida having possession of the ball, the Gators were able to get a chance to make a play but freshman guard January Miller’s 3-point attempt didn’t fall throw. The Gamecocks grabbed the rebound and South Carolina’s senior forward Ashley Bruner was fouled on her way to the basket.
“I’m really disappointed with our rebounding performance,” Butler said. “That’s something we worked hard on during this week and we didn’t carry it over into the game and there’s really no excuse for that. I got to give South Carolina a lot of credit. They played very hard, they’re very tough and they made it their number one agenda to outrebound us and they did that and then some.”
After converting only the first basket, South Carolina grabbed the rebound and the Gamecocks called a timeout with 29.7 seconds left and a 46-42 lead.
Florida was forced to foul as quickly as possible to conserve time. Only 1 of 2 free throws was made and Florida took advantage of it as Moss quickly put in a layup with 19.3 remaining. The Gators called a timeout, as Florida was only down by three now, 47-44.
After the Gators immediately fouled South Carolina’s freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell, Mitchell went to the line and sank both free throws. Florida couldn’t convert on the next play however, putting the ball back in South Carolina’s hands and ending the game as Florida was forced to keep fouling the Gamecocks to keep conserve time.
The Gators are looking to redeem themselves at 7 p.m. against Ole Miss on Thursday evening in the O’Connell Center. The game will be on COX Sports/CSS and will be streaming live on ESPN3.com.
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.