As halftime drew near, Sydney Searcy’s unofficial theme song began to play.
With 17.3 seconds remaining in the first half and the Gators in the midst of a 10-0 run to claim the lead for the first time, Georgia State took a timeout. The UF pep band decided it was a good time to play the theme to “Game of Thrones.” Then, Searcy took the opportunity to make the most of her minimal playing time.
After a full-court press resulted in a turnover caused by Tameria Johnson, she found Searcy in the paint, who drew a foul to push the Gator halftime lead to 38-31.
The scoring run between the second and third quarters served as the catalyst the Gators’ offense needed as they ran away with the game, beating GSU 82-66. After going down 8-0 in the early stages, Florida closed out the first half on a blistering run and never looked back.
Though the Gators bench won’t show up much in the stat line of Saturday’s game, coach Cameron Newbauer said it was invaluable to the outcome.
“What we did at the end of the half, we’ve never done,” Newbauer said. “For them to go in in the spur of the moment and get us two possessions in 15, 18, 20 seconds. That’s what I mean when I say ‘All hands on deck.’”
The “chuck it from the cheap seats” mantra was nearly literal from coach Cameron Newbauer heading into the season, if his first game is any reflection. The Gators attempted 31 three-pointers, even putting them up well after the game was in hand.
“If you’re open, we’ll chuck it,” Newbauer said. “In my opinion, we really didn’t even shoot it well, but hitting 32 percent from three and hitting 10, we’ll take it. I think we took the right shots. They weren’t forced shots.”
Haley Lorenzen, arguably the Gators’ anchor in the paint, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Lorenzen has scored in every game she’s played as a Gator.
“(It felt) just like my first time stepping in here (at the O’Connell Center),” Lorenzen said. “You still have those pregame jitters, you still have that anxious feeling.
“I just focused on having fun tonight. I wasn’t worried about making shots or doing anything.”
When he was asked about how he felt about his first game as a Gator, Newbauer took a long pause before answering.
“I’m proud,” Newbauer said. “Before the game, you’re not thinking much about the moment and what it is, you’re just thinking, ‘Are we prepared?’ I’ve been able to rest in knowing that, oftentimes, my players are going to put me at ease, and that’s what they did today. And that’s why I say ‘proud.’”
Senior guard Dyandria Anderson shot 8-of-14 from the field, scoring 18 points, and pulled down seven rebounds. She also led the Gators with eight assists.
Paulina Hersler, the senior transfer from UCLA, put up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and notched a career high in points.
“I didn’t really focus on myself and my personal expectations,” Hersler said. “It was my first game as a Gator. A lot of nerves, a lot of excitement, so I was just focusing on that and sticking together and playing together. I had a lot of fun.”
Florida will look to continue its hot start against Arkansas State on Tuesday night at 7 at the O’Connell center.
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at [email protected].