It was sink or swim for the Florida women's basketball team as it hit the road to play against the second-ranked team in the nation on Thursday.

Despite trailing by only two with six minutes to go before halftime, the Gators found a way to drown against Mississippi State as the Bulldogs (21-0, 7-0 SEC) handily defeated UF 90-53 in Starkville.

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Even with the 37-point loss, coach Cameron Newbauer said after the game he’s proud of his team for the effort they put forth against the No. 2 team in the country.

Florida (10-11, 2-6 SEC) couldn’t find the bottom of the net in the contest, shooting 23-of-58 from the field and only 4-of-18 from behind the arc. It was an all-around struggle for nearly everyone in the Gators starting lineup.

Forward Paulina Hersler, who was averaging 12.3 points per game prior to Thursday night, didn’t score her first basket until halfway through the fourth quarter.

Guard Delicia Washington, who has been praised over the past few weeks for her progress and ability to control her pace mid-game, committed nine turnovers, two more than the entire Bulldogs team.

One of the few bright spots from Thursday night’s game was the performance of guard Funda Nakkasoglu.

The transfer from Utah State notched 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with three assists in 30 minutes of play.

Guard Dyandria Anderson also had a respectable game, making 80 percent of her shot attempts and finishing with nine points and three rebounds.

But the No. 2 Bulldogs were too much for the Gators as they came out of the gate with a press defense that Florida couldn’t handle in the second half.

Junior Teaira McCowan led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The 6-foot-7 center also collected eight rebounds against the Gators.

Mississippi State also found production from its senior leaders. Guard Victoria Vivians had 17 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while Blair Schaefer, daughter of Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer, scored all 15 of her points from downtown, knocking down five of her eight shots from three-point territory.

“There’s a reason they’re the No. 2 team in the country,” Newbauer said. “They showed it tonight.”

Follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1 and contact him at jahlum@alligator.org.

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