At the start of the third quarter, Florida forward Paulina Hersler received a pass and pulled up from the top of the key for the Gators’ first shot of the frame. The shot went straight through the basket, increasing UF’s lead over Arkansas to double digits and jump starting a 14-4 run to start the second half.
Florida’s second half run — propelled by Hersler’s shot — helped the Gators grab their first SEC win of the season on Thursday, defeating the Razorbacks 65-51 in Fayetteville.
The shift in Cameron Newbauer’s mood between Sunday’s postgame press conference and Tuesday’s practice was palpable.
Hersler and forward Haley Lorenzen led the Gators (9-10, 1-5 SEC) on the offensive end of the floor, combining for 31 points to nearly outscoring the rest of their teammates. Coach Cameron Newbauer said the team didn’t back down from its recent five-game losing streak, praising his players for their composure.
“It’s been great to see the resolve every day,” Newbauer said. “We’ve talked about needing it more in games and tough situations, and you saw it today.”
The Gators started the game on a 9-0 run and never trailed. Arkansas attempted to claw its way back in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to eight with just 3:18 left in the contest.
But one minute later, Lorenzen found Hersler in the paint on a bounce pass. Hersler converted a layup attempt and drew a foul, pushing Florida’s lead back to double digits and sinking any chances of a Razorbacks comeback.
“That’s a play we’ve been working on in practice, especially this week,” Hersler said. “I know (Lorenzen is) always gonna be there in the post.”
In addition to the senior Gators contributions, sophomore Delicia Washington nearly recorded her fifth double-double of the season, scoring 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and collecting nine rebounds during the contest. Washington also scored two layups for Florida late in the game that helped seal the victory.
“Her pace is just getting so much better,” Newbauer said. “And you see it with those finishes she had tonight, getting in the paint and making some incredible footwork moves.”
For the Razorbacks (11-8, 2-4 SEC), its offense ran through guard Malica Monk. The junior attempted 28 shots, scoring 23 points and collecting eight rebounds in 39 minutes of play. No other player for Arkansas had more than eight points in the contest.
The Gators will attempt to win its second consecutive game on Saturday when they host Ole Miss at the O’Connell Center, a team UF lost to in double overtime earlier this season.
But for now, Florida comes back to Gainesville with its first conference victory and a happy coach.
“They’re so deserving of this,” Newbauer said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for their effort.”
A video posted to FloridaGators.com contributed to this report.