With under a minute to go in the third quarter and the game well out of reach, Mississippi State’s Zion Campbell drove through the lane. Her layup went off the glass and through the bottom of the net, giving the Bulldogs a 36-point lead and doubling Florida’s total points in the process.
Campbell’s bucket was the last field goal of the third quarter and ended a frame that saw Mississippi State outscore UF 30-7, as the No. 2 Bulldogs put on a clinic, defeating the Gators (10-14, 2-9 SEC) 98-50 in the O’Connell Center.
“They’re phenomenal defensively,” coach Cameron Newbauer said after the game. “Their pressure just got to us. What it does is it speeds you up mentally, physically. And we just kind of got out of sorts.”
Florida struggled with anything and everything that came its way throughout most of the game. The suffocating press defense from the Bulldogs forced the Gators to commit 23 turnovers during the game. MSU scored 37 points off Florida’s mistakes in the process.
Even with a strong second quarter from the Gators, Mississippi State (25-0, 11-0 SEC) found a way to bully UF on both ends of the floor.
“We need to be aggressive,” guard Funda Nakkasoglu said. “If our turnovers come off aggressive play, we can kind of live with that. But they were just all up in us tonight.”
After going into the break with a 14-point advantage, the Bulldogs used a 30-point quarter to pull away from the Gators in the second half. Only one player, freshman Chloe Bibby, was held scoreless for the No. 2 team in the nation. Eleven of the team’s 12 players collected at least one field goal in Thursday’s game.
“I think we still had a lot of defensive miscues,” forward Haley Lorenzen said. “When we started deviating from (our game plan), that’s when they started getting their open shots. They had their drives and different things like that from the beginning.”
Leading the way for Mississippi State was redshirt senior Roshunda Johnson. She led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. She shot 4-of-7 from downtown as well and grabbed six rebounds during the contest.
The Bulldogs’ inside game was led by junior Teaira McCowan. The 6-foot-7 forward had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, though her presence was felt more on the glass during Thursday’s contest. McCowan had 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards in the first half.
Guard Victoria Vivians had 17 points and was 6-of-12 from the field. She was also among the five players that scored in double figures for Mississippi State.
For Florida, not much went its way in Thursday’s contest. Despite a solid 17 points from Nakkasoglu, the Gators were stuck trying to avoid Mississippi State’s press defense all night long.
Lorenzen and sophomore Delicia Washington were the only other Gators in double figures, scoring 12 apiece and adding a combined 12 rebounds between the two.
With tonight’s loss, Florida falls to 1-43 all-time against top-three opponents. It is also the Gators’ sixth loss of the season to a top-25 team. They’ll attempt to defeat their first ranked opponent on Sunday when they travel to Columbia to take on the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks. For Newbauer, he’s already looking forward.
“We’re gonna turn the page and move on,” he said. “On to the next.”