For one of the few times this season, the Gators women’s basketball team played with fight when it hosted No. 6 Tennessee on Sunday.
But fight doesn’t necessarily translate into a victory.
Despite jumping on the Volunteers early, Florida couldn’t overcome the height of its adversary, falling 64-56 to Tennessee in the O’Connell Center.
"I was really proud of the way everyone fought," coach Amanda Butler said. "I thought everyone stepped up and played their hardest. And that’s what we ask them to do, just go and battle."
Florida’s lineup was already undersized heading into the game before the team learned Sunday morning that freshman forward Haley Lorenzen would be unable to play after she suffered a concussion in practice on Saturday.
Without her size, the Volunteers (20-3, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) exposed the Gators (11-12, 3-7 SEC) in the paint early, as forward Isabelle Harrison scored the first 11 points for Tennessee and finished with a team-high 17 on 7-of-11 shooting.
But Florida wasn’t about to roll over and take another loss in league play.
The Gators shot the ball well, moved the basketball and defended with aggression in the first half, as Florida went into the break with a 30-28 lead.
However, any hope Florida had about defeating its first ranked opponent this season was foiled by a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes in the second half.
The Volunteers used an 11-0 break after halftime to make it 42-36, with Florida fouling on numerous shots that had Tennessee shooting 22 free throws in the second half to just two by Florida.
Cassie Peoples led Florida with a game-high 18 points and six assists while Ronni Williams turned in her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Redshirt senior Kayla Lewis recorded her 1,000th career point in the first half to tie the score at 26, becoming just the 23rd Gators women’s basketball player to accomplish the feat.
"I think I’ve been too hurt to even think that was a possibility," Lewis said.
"So when I heard that was maybe a possibility I was like ‘Alright’, and that has a lot to do with my teammates. I’ve had some really great teammates that have gotten me the ball. I’m not a player that creates a lot off the dribble, you know we have great players like Cassie and Ronni who get the ball in to me and reward me for running in transition, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit for those thousand points. I’m just happy I was able to put the ball in the hole for my team."
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Cassie Peoples drives down the court during Florida's 64-56 loss to No. 6 Tennessee on Feb. 8, 2015 in the O'Connell Center.