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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

ATHENS, Ga. - It may have been Valentine's Day, but the baskets in Stegeman Coliseum showed the UF women's basketball team no love Thursday night.

The margin may have been slightly smaller than the teams' Jan. 24 meeting in Gainesville, but the game had a similar feel as the Bulldogs (18-7, 5-5 SEC) routed the Gators 85-66 in Athens.

UF (15-10, 4-6 SEC) shot 36.4 percent from the field, and Georgia countered with a 47.8-percent shooting night. Combine that with the Gators committing more turnovers (21 to 13) and getting outrebounded (38-36), and it was too much to beat a Georgia team that played No. 7 LSU to within 6 points on the road Sunday.

"We just got our butts kicked in the paint, and we turned the ball over too much on the perimeter," UF coach Amanda Butler said. "You can't beat a good team with those two factors existing."

Georgia All-American forward Tasha Humphrey had her way down low, scoring a season-high 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting and adding 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-3 senior even stepped behind the 3-point line and drained three of her five from behind the arc.

"It was easy for me," Humphrey said. "Everything I shot except for 3s, I was two or three feet away from the basket."

UF switched to zone defense throughout the game to try to stop Humphrey, and the Bulldogs 3-point shooters' made them pay. Georgia shot 8 of 17 from behind the arc in the first half. Freshman forward Angela Puleo had a career-high 18 points.

"We did a poor job in transition defense of matching up, which is always an indication that you're not communicating," Butler said. "When we left people open, they found the open person, and the open person hit it. … I didn't feel like we did anything to ever counter that. We didn't ever adjust."

UF forward Marshae Dotson wasn't much of a factor in the paint, attempting just five shots on her way to scoring 6 points, her third-lowest output of the season. Humphrey's defense frustrated Dotson all night, and the junior earned a technical foul in the second half for arguing a foul call.

"[The technical foul] is just a lack of composure, which Marshae's better than," Butler said. "It's tough when you're on the road. Things aren't going to go the way you want them to go, whether it's shots falling or the calls, but especially if you're an upperclassmen and captain, you've got to be able to handle that type of adversity."

UF once again started slow, allowing Georgia to jump out to a 10-2 lead in the first two minutes. The Gators battled back to cut the lead to 24-23 with 7:48 left in the first half. The Bulldogs answered with a 24-8 run to end the half, opening up a 48-31 halftime lead.

"We just need to be more consistent as a team," said senior guard Depree Bowden, who had 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting. "We got it down to 1, and then they went back up like 15. We can't have that."

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In the second half, UF again clawed to keep things close, forcing turnovers with its full-court press and closing the lead to 55-45 with 13:35 remaining. Neither team would score for the next 50 seconds, but then Georgia scored 6 straight, and the Gators would never threaten again.

UF will look to rebound Sunday when it hosts Arkansas at 2 p.m. The Gators blew out the Razorbacks 92-74 in Fayetteville on Jan. 20.

Butler hopes her team will take better care of the ball after having "flashbacks to November" when it came to all the turnovers.

"They're unforced turnovers," Butler said. "I don't feel like that Georgia was doing something to us defensively that we couldn't handle or figure out."

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