Gators fall to ASU at Las Vegas tourney

Florida’s defense that had been a staple in its first two victories at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout didn’t produce and the Gators lost to Arizona State, 74-58, on Saturday in the third and final day of action held at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas.

Arizona State (2-3) shot a blistering and UF-opponent season-best 58.2 percent (32-55) during the game, while the Gators (5-2) managed to hit just 30.6 percent (19-62) from the floor, including a season-low 25 percent effort (8-32) in the first half, falling behind 35-22 at the break.

“Arizona State came to play right from the get-go and established who the more dominate team was and we fell in line with that, unfortunately,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “We didn’t do very much to change or shift their momentum except for a little fight there in the second half. It’s a game that we really have to learn from. We made a lot of critical errors and most of them were defensive.”

ASU scored the first points of the second half with another inside bucket and the teams traded scores for the first four minutes of the period, with the Sun Devils lead alternating between 13 and 15 points.

Sydney Moss hit one free throw with 16:08 remaining and Jennifer George followed with two more and a tough inside jumper to start a 9-2 run with Jaterra Bonds and George hitting driving layups and cut their deficit to eight points , 45-37, with 12:53 remaining.

Florida had additional chances to get even closer, but missed several short jumpers under the basket and made a number of uncontested turnovers that allowed ASU a 10-3 run, as the Sun Devils took a 57-42 lead with 8:35 on the clock and the Gators never recovered.

The Gators went to the free throw line a season-high 26 times and made 19 of their attempts, but that’s wasn’t the game plan.

“We weren’t really trying to get to the line,” Butler said. “They were doing a great job of stopping our dribble penetration. We’re always trying to attack the paint and attack it with the pass, but we weren’t finishing. We were getting some quality looks so we just tried to generate offense from somewhere else.”

George and Bonds finished with 11 points each to lead Florida, with George collecting a game-high nine rebounds and four steals, but connected on just 3-of-12 shots from the floor. Bonds corralled a season-best six rebounds and dished a team-high three assists.

Redshirt-freshman Carlie Needles, who was named to the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout All-Tournament Team, finished with eight points. Moss chipped in nine points and five rebounds, while Christin Mercer also added nine points.

Florida struggled with its shot early, missing 10 of its first 11 shots from the floor and fell behind 14-4, with only Christin Mercer able to connect from the floor and Lily Svete converted two free throws during the opening five-plus minutes.

Meanwhile the Sun Devils were 9-of-14 in the first 9:51 of the game that helped them sprint to an 18-7 lead, as ASU dominated the inside game.

ASU increased its lead to 14 points, 24-10, with 6:37 remaining in the first half when the Gators showed some life and marched off the next six points with Jaterra Bonds, Vicky McIntyre and Sydney Moss connecting form the floor and brought the deficit to eight, 24-16, with 3:03 to go in the first half.

The Sun Devils came right back with 9-2 run with the aid of two three-pointers and pushed its lead to 33-18, with 47 seconds remaining.

McIntyre stopped the march with an eight-footer and Needles hit two free throws that brought Florida to within 11 points with 6.2 seconds on the clock. The Gators then intercepted ASU’s long in-bounds pass, but immediately turned it over, as the Sun Devils capitalized by hitting yet another layup, this one at the buzzer, and took a 35-22 halftime advantage.

Florida shot a season-low 25 percent (8-32) in the first half and committed 11 turnovers that ASU converted into 15 points. The Sun Devils hit 57.1 percent (16-28) in the opening frame with 26 points coming in the paint compared to just 10 for the Gators.

The Gators tallied a season-low 22 first-half points, seven points lower than in any other half this year.

Seven different players scoring during the first half, with Carlie Needles’ five points leading the group. Jennifer George corralled six rebounds to lead UF’s 24-13 advantage on the boards.

The Gators take a few days off before returning to the road and travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play the Michigan Wolverines on Sat., Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. ET.

Courtesy of UF Communications