What transpired on Sunday wasn’t what Ole Miss envisioned for the opening of its brand-new on-campus arena.
Hosting Florida (14-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) for the inaugural women’s basketball game at The Pavilion, the Rebels (9-7, 1-2 SEC) were outplayed from the opening tip and ultimately lost by a final score of 85-65.
It was UF’s second SEC win in a row following a stunning victory at No. 12 Tennessee on Thursday night.
"Our team has a great deal of confidence in each other and they really believe in how good they are," Florida head coach Amanda Butler said of avoiding a hangover from the Tennessee game following the win over Ole Miss.
"When you play that way with a group of veterans, they’re not going to allow that to happen."
While the result was one the Gators have become accustomed to, the route they took to get there was not.
For the most part, UF has been a closing team this season.
It tends to stay within striking distance in the first half of games and then pulls away in the second half.
Sunday was not one of those games.
While Ole Miss held a lead for almost four minutes at the beginning of the game, once UF took a lead with 5:55 left in the first quarter, it didn’t look back.
By the start of the second quarter, the rout was already on.
After leading by as many as 24, Florida had the match in hand before halftime.
With Florida leading 53-30 at halftime, UF was poised to break the 100-point barrier for the second time this year.
However, the team cooled off in the second half to the tune of 32 points.
Junior forward Tyshara Fleming led the Gators with 12 points, marking her first time leading the team in scoring this season.
Five Florida players recorded double figures for only the third time this season, while sophomore Haley Lorenzen added nine and senior Carla Batchelor notched eight.
Freshman Eleanna Christinaki didn’t light up the scoreboard, but she did produce 10 assists.
Redshirt senior Carlie Needles recorded 11 points and six rebounds, but her hustle and energy acted as a catalyst for the first-half scoring run.
And for the sixth time this season, junior Ronni Williams finished the game with a double-double, scoring 11 points and collecting 12 rebounds.
"I know there’s gonna be a lot of names when I look at the stat sheet, but that’s just how we play," Butler said.
"And we don’t know who it’s going to be that steps up each night, but we just know that someone’s going to."
As usual, Butler did not shy away from addressing some weaknesses she saw in her team post-game, despite a 20-point margin of victory.
"There’s always room to grow," she said.
"We had too many turnovers, a lot of spacing miscues. There’s gonna be some things that the film shows us. The main thing we’ve gotta do is rest tomorrow and then get back to work on Tuesday."
Tuesday is when the team will resume practice, but its next game won’t take place until Thursday when rival Georgia comes to Gainesville for a 7 p.m. tip in the O’Connell Center.
While the Bulldogs do boast a 12-4 record, they’ll be looking for their first SEC win, as they’re currently 0-3 in conference play.
Follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri