Written by Jenna Ladd
The Florida Gators, now 2-0, improved their season record this Monday evening after taking a 91-46 win over the Longwood Lancers with 1,224 people in attendance at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Ronni Williams didn’t miss a shot, making all 8 of her field goal attempts, putting her at 16 points from FGs with an additional 3 points from the line. Another individual that stood out for the Gators was Carlie Needles who went 3-for-5 in 3-point attempts, along with 4-for-6 from two. Carla Batchelor also had an explosive performance in her five minutes of playing time, going 4-for-4 in field goals and nailing a 3-pointer.
Williams commented on her perfect scoring game tonight saying, “Well, I mean all my points came from the paint, so with my point guards and the other guards that are on the wing giving and throwing it to me, they threw perfect passes. I was able to catch it and finish.”
Longwood came out making a strong first impression by scoring a 2-pointer less than a minute into the first half, however Florida quickly responded with back-to-back 2-pointers by Kayla Lewis in the next three minutes of the game. The Lancers tied up the score to 4-4 exactly one minute after Lewis scored her second 2-pointer with a 2-point field goal of their own, making sure to stay in the game.
The score bounced back and forth, and Longwood held their biggest lead of 2 points over Florida two times. Once, when they scored the first basket at 19:01, and second at 12:35 into the first half by getting a back-to-back jumper and free throw shot. However, their lead did not last more than 10 seconds. Ronni Williams tied it up with a layup at 12:27, followed by making a free throw that landed the Gators in the lead that they would hold for the remainder of the game.
One of the factors that helped the Gators pull further away with the lead and gain some more confidence was Carlie Needles going 3-for-3 in 3-pointers within four minutes, putting them up by 13 with a score of 29-16. Florida’s momentum picked up from there, where their lead increased at a steady rate leaving them 24 points over the Lancers with a score of 43-19 heading into halftime.
Needles took all of those 3-pointer shots from the left side three, when asked if she favored that side she responded saying, “I think it was probably just a coincidence tonight, I don’t prefer any particular side of the floor. But, I thought that my teammates really looked for me once I hit the first one (3-pointer). They gave me the two second shots easily, so I think it was just my placement on the floor, it’s not a favorite spot or anything like that.”
Coming into the second half, the Gators continued their lead over the Lancers with the lowest lead being by 24 points at three different times. Once at 18:33, second at 17:31 and the last time being at 15:11 which Florida quickly pulled away from with Cassie Peoples making two free throws. January Miller echoed Peoples rhythm and nailed two free throws of her own less than a minute after. Still, Longwood kept the competition going even with such a large score difference. They did so by scoring a 3-pointer bringing the Gator lead back down to 25 points with a score of 53-28.
From there, Florida pulled away even harder with a jumper by Miller, a layup by Lorenzen and a steal by Needles that she ran back for a layup and free throw shot. This all happened within a matter of two minutes, upping Florida’s lead over Longwood to 60-28.
Even though Needles is only 5’6”, she decided to make her height a positive rather than a negative to surprise the Lancers and become one of the key players in the game. Needles said, “I’m small so it’ s a little bit harder to get a rebound like Ronni or Kayla can so I just try to fly by and get those outside rebounds… it was hard for us to get some rebounds because they shot so far outside the paint… I try to use my little body to surprise some people out there. I’m trying to work on it, I’m trying to be a better impact for the guards on the boards and hopefully I just continue to do that for the team.”
Florida’s team definitely saw Needles effort and they all worked together amidst a sloppy start of the game. The rest of the game they continued to further the score gap where they topped out at a lead of 48 points with 1:30 left in the game, putting the score at 90-42. This high point had a lot to do with Carla Batchelor subbing in for Lewis, where she put up 9 points on the scoreboard for the Gators within two minutes with a 3-pointer, a layup and two jumpers. The game finished up with another free throw for the Gators by Batchelor and a layup and two successful free throws for the Lancers, leaving the final score at 91-46.
Florida will play their third game of the season against St. John’s in Queens, New York on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m. where Florida will be their second game of the season. The St. John’s Red Storm is currently 1-0 in their season and won their last game by 11 points against Yale. Looking on to Thursday’s game, head coach Amanda Butler said, “I see some great individual performances, some really efficient offensive work by some folks and that’s great to see heading into a tough place to play like St. John’s.”