With 40 seconds left in Sunday’s game against Missouri, Florida’s Cassie Peoples took a jumper with her team down by 13.
Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham and Florida’s Simone Westbrook grabbed the rebound and wouldn’t let go until well after the whistle had blown, earning them both technical fouls.
Down 13 with under a minute to play, Westbrook’s effort summed up the fight that has carried the Gators all season.
However, on Sunday, that fight wasn't enough as the No. 22 Gators (16-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) fell to the No. 23 Tigers (16-4, 3-4 SEC), 79-64 in Columbia, Missouri.
"Your margin for error against a great team on their home floor is really, really tiny," Florida coach Amanda Butler said in a release. "And ours was too great tonight to overcome."
This season, Florida has earned a reputation as a fourth quarter team. In 19 games, UF has only been outscored in the final quarter three times and still managed to win all three of those games.
That streak ended on Sunday.
Down 10 heading into the final frame, the deficit only increased. The Gators got the score as close as six but ultimately came out five points worse than they came in, as Missouri bested them 17-12.
Florida’s Ronni Williams recorded 14 points and nine rebounds, which was a team-high in both categories. However, the individual with the greatest impact on the game was Missouri’s Morgan Stock.
Before the game, Florida introduced a new starting lineup that featured redshirt-senior guard Cassie Peoples in favor of freshman Eleanna Christinaki. It was supposed to bolster the perimeter defense.
Yet, time and time again, Stock was open on the perimeter. She would make the Gators pay by going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. She finished the game with a team-best 20 points.
"We have to play great defense. We didn’t do that in the third quarter and we didn’t get offensive rebounds," Butler said.
With UF's defense struggling to contain the Tigers, its offense didn’t play well enough to keep the Gators in the game.
In the first half especially, the Gators had opportunities in transition that ended in a travel or a poorly selected shot.
Florida also got into foul trouble, with four Gators recording four fouls and one recording five.
Missouri cashed in on those fouls by converting on 19-of-25 from the charity stripe.
In contrast, Florida knocked down 14-of-22.
"We got beat by a good team and a great SEC team in front of a fantastic SEC crowd," Butler said.
Following the last several games, Butler has emphasized the overall quality and depth of the SEC, as she did when talking about Missouri. Now, her team is about to experience the full force of that depth.
Missouri was the first of a brutal five-game stretch for Florida that includes games against four ranked opponents. Next up is Arkansas on Thursday night in Fayetteville, which should be the easiest of the stretch. However, Arkansas recently defeated Texas A&M and Tennessee — both of which are ranked above Florida.
After that, the Gators will face No. 9 Kentucky, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 2 South Carolina in succession.
The Tigers managed to move to 5-0 all-time against Florida in the first of those tough five games.
But with four more looming, Butler knows that she needs to get her team over the loss quickly.
"It is an SEC game," she said.
"It is tough but we have to get ready for the next one."