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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

UF wraps up tough stretch with poor all-around performance

<p>Redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles (4) dribbles during Florida’s 71-49 win against Fairfield on Nov. 9 in the O’Connell Center. Needles and the Gators have struggled to defend the three-point line.</p>

Redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles (4) dribbles during Florida’s 71-49 win against Fairfield on Nov. 9 in the O’Connell Center. Needles and the Gators have struggled to defend the three-point line.

Through two games in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout, Carlie Needles and Florida feasted on the competition.

On Sunday, the Gators were left feeling like turkeys.

Plagued by poor shooting and an inconsistent effort on the defensive end of the court, Florida (5-2) dropped its final game in Las Vegas, losing 74-58 to Arizona State (2-3) on Sunday.

After shooting 48.8 percent from the field in wins against N.C. State and Northern Iowa to begin the weekend, UF was limited to just 30.6-percent shooting in the loss.

Florida’s defense, usually the team’s strength, allowed Arizona State to shoot 58.2 percent in the win.

“Arizona State came to play,” coach Amanda Butler said. “Right from the [start], they established who the more dominant team was. We fell in line with that, unfortunately.”

After trailing by a double-digit margin for most of the game, Florida used a 9-2 run in the second half to pull within 45-37 with 12:52 remaining.

Poor shooting undermined UF’s attempt to get any closer.

“We were getting the right shots,” Needles said. “We just weren’t finishing them. That was a big part of our loss today.”

Needles was held to just eight points and made only 1 of 5 attempts from behind the arc.

Jennifer George and Jaterra Bonds led Florida offensively, as each scored 11 points in the loss. But the pair needed 24 shots to score the 22 combined points.

“We weren’t really trying to get to the line,” Butler said. “[Arizona State] was doing a great job of stopping our dribble penetration. We’re always trying to attack the paint and attack it with the pass, but we weren’t finishing.”

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For Butler, UF’s inability to make shots was less irritating than its lack of commitment on the defensive end of the floor.

Arizona State’s Janae Fulcher led all scorers with 26 points in 20 minutes. Fulcher helped the Sun Devils outscore the Gators 50-24 in the paint.

“We made a lot of critical errors, and most of them were defensive,” Butler said.

The loss concludes a brutal stretch for the Gators, who played three games in as many days and four games in seven days. Florida went 3-1 during that stretch.

Butler downplayed the effect fatigue had on her team.

“We have no excuses, because Arizona State played two very close games preceding this,” Butler said. “I’m not sure if it was mental fatigue or poor preparation on our part. I felt like we were ready to play, but we certainly did not come out that way.”

Needles said the three games will help the inexperienced Gators prepare for the rest of the season.

Florida does not play again until Saturday, when it travels to Michigan.

“We just can’t let other teams dictate our game tempo,” Needles said. “When we dictate, that’s when games go our way.”

Redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles (4) dribbles during Florida’s 71-49 win against Fairfield on Nov. 9 in the O’Connell Center. Needles and the Gators have struggled to defend the three-point line.

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