For Florida women’s basketball players Haley Lorenzen and Funda Nakkasoglu, there’s one phrase that comes to mind to describe the past week.
Before Paulina Hersler came to UF, the graduate transfer started only two games at UCLA and averaged under 11 minutes per game. Now, at a new …
That seems to be the collective attitude toward UF’s bye week, which comes to an end tonight at 7 when the team takes on No. 15 Missouri in Columbia.
This past week was the first time since New Year’s Eve that the Gators didn’t play on a Thursday night. Coach Cameron Newbauer said the off days served a few different purposes: a recruiting trip for himself, and an opportunity to recuperate on and off the court for his players.
With the team finally back together, however, the Gators will need to move past the second-half woes that have plagued them this season if they want to pull off an upset tonight over the Tigers.
On Jan. 25, Florida (10-12, 2-7 SEC) trailed No. 2 Mississippi State by two halfway through the second quarter. But MSU’s high-octane offense put up 31 points in the third to run away with the game.
Three days later, Florida took a seven-point lead over then-No. 21 Georgia heading into the fourth quarter. Florida surrendered another 31 points in that frame and lost by nine.
After the UGA game, the team took the opportunity to have individual film sessions with the coaching staff to address those issues.
“We’ve had a bit of a tendency to come out a bit sluggish in the third quarter,” Nakkasoglu said. “If we just clean up some small things, we’ll be going in the right direction.”
Newbauer said he wasn’t as concerned about physicality, but rather his team’s knack for making hasty errors.
“I think you can get flustered and frustrated and sped up to where you try to make the right decision a little too quickly,” he said. “Sometimes you just hurry a little too much, and you become so anxious in the situation, the moment, that ends up hurting you.”
The Gators will see if their work on those situations has paid off tonight against the Tigers. While Missouri (17-5, 5-4 SEC) has outscored its opponents by 93 total points in the second half this season, Florida has done nearly the opposite, compiling a minus-72 margin over that same span.
The Tigers are led by guard Sophie Cunningham, who’s averaging a team-high 18.4 points per game on 54.8-percent shooting from the field. The 6-foot-1 All-SEC junior isn’t afraid to shoot it from distance either. Her next three-point attempt will be her 100th on the year.
Where Florida has struggled defensively this season, however, is in the paint. The Gators will have to work to contain Missouri forward Jordan Frericks. She’s shooting an even 50 percent from the field, with most of her shots coming from inside, and is second on the team in scoring with 11.2 points per game.
While Newbauer praised his opponent’s toughness, he’s excited to see how his team responds to the challenge of facing its third consecutive ranked opponent.
“(It’s a) great opportunity on the road to go into a challenging environment to see where we’ve grown and who we’ve become in the last week,” Newbauer said.