Dyandria Anderson put up a prayer from the left side of the court. With two seconds left on the game clock, the senior’s three-point attempt bounced off the back rim as Arkansas State’s Akasha Westbrook grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock.
The buzzer sounded as the Red Wolves’ bench erupted in cheers. Arkansas State defeated the Gators, 70-69, in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday night.
It was the first loss at UF for new coach Cameron Newbauer, who Florida hired on March 27 to fix an underperforming women's basketball program.
“They outfought us, they outworked us, they deserve the game in every area,” Newbauer said. “Even if we did make a shot at the end, we did not deserve to win this game.”
Throughout the contest, the 2016 Sun Belt Conference champions kept it close, holding a lead for a majority of the first half and going shot for shot with the Gators in the third quarter.
In the first quarter, UF struggled to find any offensive rhythm and was suffocated by Arkansas State’s defense. Florida (1-1) had more turnovers (8) than field goals made (6), despite shooting almost 50 percent during the frame. The Red Wolves (1-1) spread the ball around in the first 10 minutes as seven of their players scored in the quarter.
It was the same story in the second quarter as the Gators struggled to put the ball in the basket, attempting only four shots in the paint. UF didn’t find much success on its drives and couldn’t get open looks near the rim. As a result, Florida took shots from outside the paint, maintaining 46-percent shooting, same as the first quarter.
Florida regained the lead and take it into halftime after trailing for more than 15 minutes in the first two quarters.
At the start of the second half, Florida jumped out to a four-point lead thanks to a three-pointer from guard Funda Nakkasoglu. But Arkansas State battled back as the teams swapped the lead throughout the third and into the fourth quarter, ending in a one-point win for the Red Wolves.
Nakkasoglu tied as the lead scorer with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. The redshirt junior said she wants to be more aggressive and assume a leadership role when the Gators next take the floor.
“I think I need to bring more to the team," Nakkasoglu said. "I’m not bringing enough right now.”
Graduate transfer Paulina Hersler added a double-double with 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
As a team, the Gators had 23 turnovers and gave up 20 offensive rebounds.
For Arkansas State, Westbrook matched Nakkasoglu with 16 of her own, as well as three assists and the game-ending rebound.
In his first loss as UF's head coach, Newbauer said his team was outplayed.
“Our team was not prepared for the intensity, the fight that Arkansas State plays with,” Newbauer said.
You can follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.