With under four minutes left in the second quarter, Florida guard Funda Nakkasoglu was sent to the charity stripe for a pair of free throws. After Nakkasoglu buried one of her two attempts, the Gators slowly watched their eight-point lead slip away at the end of the half and went into the break ahead by one.
It was the prelude for a second half that saw UF score only 19 points as the Gators dropped their first conference game of the season to the Auburn Tigers 84-55 at Auburn Arena on Sunday.
After shooting 48 percent from the field in the first half, the Gators (8-6, 0-1 SEC) became stagnant on offense, making only 2-of-10 shots from behind the arc in the final 20 minutes and was outscored in the fourth quarter, 30-4. Auburn (10-3, 1-0 SEC) dominated possession in the final frame, taking three times as many shots as UF did.
“They started to chip away at (the lead) and we started to collapse and cave in,” coach Cameron Newbauer said in a release. “We’ve just got to have more of a resolve about ourselves and someone has to pick us up.”
In addition to poor shooting from the field, Florida committed 13 turnovers and gave the ball up on 36 percent of its possessions in the second half. The Tigers exploited the Gators’ mishaps on offense, scoring 17 of their 30 points in the fourth quarter off of turnovers.
Nakkasoglu had 15 points on the night, and senior Paulina Hersler posted 12 points in the losing effort. They were the only Gators to score in double digits.
For the Tigers, Gainesville native Janiah McKay notched a game-high 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting. McKay also added five assists, four rebounds and made 7-of-8 free throws.
In addition to McKay’s effort, guard Daisa Alexander came off the bench for Auburn and scored 21 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while guard Emari Jones shot 6-for-11 from the field for 18 points in front of the home crowd.
The Gators will have three days to shake off the loss before hosting Alabama on Thursday at 7 p.m. Newbauer will look to take away positives from Sunday’s contest in preparing for the Crimson Tide.
“All in all, we started good because we made shots,” Newbauer said. “We've got to be more together if we want to play better and have any sort of chance whatsoever in an SEC contest."
A floridagators.com article contributed to this report.