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Monday, May 29, 2023

Stetson caught the Gators taking it easy and almost made them pay for it.

Coming off a tough loss to No. 20 Florida State, UF got a little more of a test than it might have anticipated in a 54-50 victory against the Hatters on Monday night.

The Gators (4-2) led by 14 with 3:36 to play and had sat most of their starters before Stetson went on a 10-0 run capped off with back-to-back 3-pointers by Brittany Carannante and Tierra Brown.

UF starters Sha Brooks, Depree Bowden, Marshae Dotson and Sharielle Smith were forced to come back in and help run out the clock.

"The way in which we finished the ballgame is disappointing," UF coach Amanda Butler said. "We're still searching for a high level of consistency and intensity, and we didn't carry that through for 40 minutes."

Brooks (16 points) and Dotson (10) were the only two Gators to score in double-digits.

Brooks' shots weren't falling from the floor, as the junior went 3 for 12 (0 for 7 from 3-point range). She did go 10 for 10 from the free-throw line to help her team hold on for the win.

Butler told Brooks at halftime to drive to the lane more because her free throws were falling. Besides taking her coach's advice to heart, Brooks also looked for other ways to help her team.

"I hate missing threes," she said. "I hate it, I really do. But you have to just try and do something else different like try to pass the ball well or play good defense."

The Gators started slowly again and allowed the Hatters to go on an early 8-0 run.

UF would even things up soon after and made a 10-0 run with 4:26 left in the first half to open up a 12-point lead.

A layup by Brooks with 10:10 left to play gave the Gators a 47-31 lead, tied for their largest margin of the game, before careless play allowed Stetson some hope.

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"The last three minutes of the game have got to be better," Butler said. "You've got to close that out with some certainty and a lot more toughness and confidence then what we showed tonight."

SMITH STARTS: Forward Sharielle Smith made her first start of the season, replacing center Aneika Henry.

Henry suffered a foot injury during practice this weekend but said after the game it felt "pretty good."

"We were trying to hold her out as much as possible and let her rest and let her foot heal," Butler said.

Smith, who missed the first two games with a stress fracture in her right foot, played 27 minutes and led the team in rebounds with 11, but made only 1 of 7 shots from the floor and finished with 2 points. Henry came off the bench and contributed 7 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

THREE-POINT WOES: The Gators turned in another abysmal performance from behind the arc. UF entered Monday night's game shooting just 31.2 percent but were coming off a 47.1 percent night against the Seminoles on Friday. The team was back to its old ways against Stetson, making just 3 of 16 3-point shots.

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