The Florida women’s basketball team went 1-1 this past weekend to finally snap their five-game losing streak.
While the Gators fell to Missouri 64-69 Thursday evening on the road, the Gators were determined to make a comeback in the O’Connell Center against Alabama in their annual Pinkzone game. Florida crushed the Crimson Tide, 87-54, Sunday evening as freshman forward Christin Mercer earned her first double-double of her career.
Despite Florida’s efforts to hold back Missouri (14-8, 3-5 SEC) on 3-point attempts Thursday evening, the Tigers found other way to put the ball in the basket, preferably the paint. The Gators (14-9, 3-6 SEC) held the nation’s third best outside shooting team to seven three-pointers but were outscored 30-22 in the paint. Between getting outscored in the paint and Florida’s 13-of-22 shooting from the free throw line, the Gators weren’t able to break their four-game losing streak.
“Missouri answered each of our runs consistently throughout tonight’s game,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “When we made runs, they answered them with confidence and made the plays they expected to make. We’re lacking in that area.”
Missouri gained the lead early in the first half as the Gators turned over the ball at the 16:25. The Tigers converted the turnover into a 3-point play to take the lead, 7-3. The Tigers continued to extend their lead after a jumper was made to put Missouri ahead 15-11. The Tigers nearly got into the double-digit territory lead after a clean layup was ran down the floor after Florida missed a jumper with 9:27 to go in the first half, 13-22.
Redshirted freshman guard Carlie Needles responded to Florida’s increasing deficit by nailing a three from downtown to try to close the gap between the Gators and the Tigers with 9:08 to go in the first half. Junior center Vicky McIntyre followed Needles’ lead by hitting a jumper a couple of plays after that to pull the Gators within 18-22 with 7:47 left. McIntyre then hit two free throws after being fouled to pull Florida within 20-23. Missouri wasn’t going to let the Gators get within reach that quickly though as they put up a layup to gain back a five-point lead, 25-20 with 5:30 to go.
Missouri quickly put up buckets to gain a 10-point lead but the Gators weren’t going away anytime soon. McIntyre was fouled and made both of her buckets and after forcing a turnover, redshirted junior forward Lily Svete knocked down a three with 2:17 to go in the first half. Svete was on fire knocking down another three just plays after that to put Florida back within 28-32. The Gators were focused forcing another turnover which freshman guard Sydney Moss converted into a layup with 1:28 to go in the first half.
Mercer then hit a jumper to tie up the game 32 all with 52 seconds left. On the next play, Missouri missed a jumper and the Gators rebounded it. Florida turned it over though but due to great defense, the Tigers missed a three-point attempt, which was rebounded by the Gators with 37 seconds left. With 2 seconds to go until halftime, junior guard Jaterra Bonds hit a jumper to end the first half in Florida’s favor, 34-32. Despite being up by two, Missouri outscored the Gators 12-4 in the paint.
The Tigers came out of halftime and put a bucket in the hoop on the first possession to tie the game up at 34 all. The teams exchanged points back and forth but buckets by Mercer and McIntyre put the Gators up by seven, 48-41. Missouri responded with a 3-pointer after they called a timeout to regroup with a little over 12 minutes to play. With 10:57 on the clock, the Tigers began to make a comeback as they put in a layup to gain within 3, 46-49.
A foul was called on the Gators and Missouri sank both of their free throws to pull within 1, 48-49. The Gators had attempts at baskets but none went through the hoop. The Tigers regained their lead with 9:19 left in the game after they sank a three to go up 51-49. Missouri went on a 6-0 run to pull ahead 58-49 with 7:02 left on the clock. Svete broke the silence for Florida draining a three from downtown to pull the Gators within six with 5:49 to go.
Freshman guard January Miller put up a layup with 4:27 to play but Missouri came right back with a layup of their own to hold onto their five-point lead, 60-55 with 3:30 to go. At the 3:21 mark, senior forward Jennifer George delivered a layup as the Gators trailed 57-61. George was clutch down the stretch as the senior forward was fouled and sent to the line with 2:42 left on the board and sank both free throws to pull the Gators within 1, 61-62.
Missouri came right back to make two free throws to keep a 3-point lead, 64-61. George was on fire for the Gators at this point, making a jumper and then hitting one-of-two from the free throw line to tie the game up at 64 all with 1:38 left on the clock. Missouri dealt with the pressure on, nailing a layup and stealing the ball back on the next possession to hit a jumper. Florida was forced to call a timeout with 35 seconds left as Mizzou led 68-64. After failing to convert on their last play, the Gators were forced to foul, giving Missouri the chance to seal the game. The Gators were outscored 37-30 in the second half, and hit only 11 of 34 from the floor.
George scored Florida’s 11 of her team high 13 points in the second half while McIntyre notched 12 points to match her Florida career-high. McIntyre also had four rebounds against Missouri and both Gators combined for four blocks on the evening.
“Offensively, I was really proud of Vicky McIntyre and she did her job,” Butler said. “That’s one of the things we have been focused on the past couple of days, is talking a lot about that reliability factor and in the paint, particularly on the offensive end, she really did her job.”
Bonds and Moss combined for 11 points while Needles and Mercer combined for 12. Svete earned nine points against Missouri.
The turnaround coming back home to the O-Dome Sunday afternoon was spectacular. Florida shot a season-best 58.3 percent from the floor and outrebounded Alabama, 51-33. The Crimson Tide was held to a 25.7 percent shooting, including a 3-of-23 three-point effort. To put an end to their five-game losing streak was incredible in itself but to accomplish the feat at home and in the Pinkzone game just made victory that much sweeter.
“I think it was a great win for our program in a lot of different ways,” Butler said. “Celebrating and trying to raise awareness of breast cancer, research and raising money and being in pink and then obviously getting a very big win, not just winning the ball game, but winning in a convincing fashion.”
Mercer led the game that night with a career-best 18 points along with a career-high 11 rebounds. To put it lightly, she played one of the best games of her career hitting 9 of 12 shots as the Gators blew Alabama away by 33 points.
The team as a whole did sensational as Bonds was right behind Mercer notching 16 points and Moss recorded 14 points and seven rebounds. Svete and McIntyre combined for 24 points together against the Crimson Tide.
“I was really proud of the bounce back because we have had a lot of reasons to hang our heads and we’ve had a lot of reasons to accept less,” Butler said. “They just wouldn’t allow that to happen.”
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.