With six seconds remaining in the first round of the SEC Tournament, Florida knew its time was up.
After senior guard Dyandria Anderson missed her final shot in a Gators uniform, Ole Miss forward Promise Taylor grabbed the game-ending defensive rebound, sealing the Rebels’ 48-43 victory in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday afternoon.
Tara Washington glanced down at her phone as it started to buzz.
As seniors Paulina Hersler and Haley Lorenzen walked through the handshake line with Ole Miss, the two forwards – having played their last games as Gators – choked back tears from their flushed faces as UF’s season came to an abrupt end.
The postseason contest had similarities to Florida’s loss to the Rebels last month in Oxford. On Jan. 7, UF came back after trailing by 15 in the third quarter to send the game to overtime, but eventually lost 78-75.
On Wednesday, the Gators (11-19, 3-13 SEC) once again came up short.
“Playing a team three times, you really get to know each other well,” coach Cameron Newbauer said. “I thought they did a really terrific job of taking away what we wanted to do from an offensive end.”
UF failed to score 50-plus points for the third consecutive game, committing 20 turnovers in the process.
Lorenzen and Hersler were a couple of bright spots. They had 14 and 11 points, respectively, and combined for 17 of UF’s 39 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of our seniors and what they’ve done this year,” Newbauer said. “I don’t think this game and the result is indicative, at all, of what they’ve done (for the program).”
Funda Nakkasoglu, Florida’s leading scorer throughout the season, continued a rough offensive stretch, shooting 2-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe for 11 points.
The Rebels (12-18, 1-15 SEC), who came into the matchup with a 13-game losing streak, took a two-point lead midway through the second quarter off a pair of Alissa Alston free throws.
They didn’t look back, increasing their lead to seven by the end of the half and staying out in front for the final 25 minutes of the game.
Ole Miss wasn’t perfect, committing more fouls than Florida and recording fewer rebounds.
Madinah Muhammad and Shelby Gibson were also the only players to score in double digits for the Rebels, compared to Florida’s trio of Lorenzen, Nakkasoglu and Hersler.
“I thought Ole Miss did a terrific job of doing what we wanted to take away,” Newbauer said. “It was kind of the achilles there today.”
But, when the final buzzer sounded, it was Ole Miss that was victorious. The Rebels are moving on to the second round of the SEC Tournament to take on Missouri on Thursday at 9:30 p.m., while Florida will pack its bags and head into the offseason.