If the Gators women’s basketball team was disappointed following its fifth consecutive loss of SEC play on Sunday, it hardly showed. Instead, coach Cameron Newbauer and his players talked about the fight and pride that has been a staple of postgame press conferences and pre-practice soundbites all season long.
Fight and pride might be the only thing Florida (10-15, 2-10 SEC) has going for itself tonight at 8, however, when it takes on No. 17 Texas A&M for its sixth straight matchup with a ranked team.
Florida has been outscored by an average of 20.6 points during its five-game skid and currently sits in a tie for 12th place in the conference standings.
But after its latest loss, a 64-57 defeat at the hands of South Carolina, Newbauer stood by his players.
“The fight that we showed — the resolve, the resilience, the effort — I’m just so proud of our squad,” he said.
A good majority of that effort against the Gamecocks came from guard Funda Nakkasoglu. The junior shot 8 of 14 from the field while racking up 21 points, her most since Dec. 20.
Back in Gainesville on Tuesday, Nakkasoglu said she and her teammates were encouraged by their performance against South Carolina.
“We played the game plan to a T,” Nakkasoglu said. “We’re way more happy than sad or upset.”
The list of trends UF takes into the matchup with the Aggies isn’t exactly encouraging. The Gators are shooting 26.7 percent from three-point range in SEC games after developing the long shot as an integral part of their game plan earlier in the season. Before conference play began, Florida was knocking down three-point shots at a clip of 35.1 percent.
The Gators’ deteriorating scoring output is a direct result of their shooting woes. Excluding its Jan. 7 meeting with Ole Miss that went to double overtime, Florida’s scoring average has dropped every SEC game and currently sits at 66.9 points per game, a far cry from the 74.5 points per game before its SEC opener against Auburn on Dec. 31.
That doesn’t bode well going up against Texas A&M tonight. The Aggies (19-7, 8-4 SEC) boast the SEC’s second-leading scorer in guard Chennedy Carter. The true freshman cracked the starting lineup in her team’s opening game and has rewarded Texas A&M with her 20.9 points per game. She also ranks third in the conference with 4.8 assists per game.
After trying to contain South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson and Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan in three of its last five games, Florida gets another test on the boards with Texas A&M’s Anriel Howard. Howard is second in the SEC in rebounds, sandwiched between Wilson and McCowan with 10.8 per game. While the junior forward stands just 5-foot-11, she still holds the record for most rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game from when she grabbed 27 against Missouri State in her freshman year.
Newbauer expressed his respect for both the Aggies’ offensive and defensive weapons.
“(They’ve) got some explosive players,” Newbauer said. “It’s another SEC battle. Best league in the country.”