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Saturday, October 01, 2022

Florida women's basketball outplayed by unranked Auburn on the road

<p>UF's Carlie Needles looks to pass the ball during Florida's 85-79 win over Kentucky on Jan. 31, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.</p>

UF's Carlie Needles looks to pass the ball during Florida's 85-79 win over Kentucky on Jan. 31, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

Coaches across sports consistently preach about the importance of a renewed focus in games following losses.

Florida, however, did a poor job of taking that wisdom to heart on Sunday.

In their worst loss of the season, the No. 16 Gators were defeated 80-58 on the road to unranked Auburn.

The 22-point loss was seven points worse than the loss UF suffered against then-No. 2 South Carolina in its previous outing on Thursday.

"Auburn just outplayed us. They were tougher than us," Florida coach Amanda Butler said in a release. "Auburn played with a lot more desire than we did and that’s really disappointing."

While a lackluster second quarter doomed the Gators against South Carolina, it was a flat third quarter that cost Florida (19-6, 7-5 Southeastern Conference) against the Tigers (18-8, 8-5 SEC).

After a first half that saw 19 lead changes, Auburn went into the locker room with a five-point lead.

Redshirt senior guard Carlie Needles was shooting well, making her first three three-pointers of the game and going 3-for-5 from behind the arc in the first half.

Neither team was able to establish much momentum outside the game’s first five minutes until seconds before the half ended.

Coming off a layup with nine seconds to play, UF’s Cassie Peoples tried to take the ball up the court to get off one last shot. She was met by a pair of Auburn defenders.

One of them, guard Janiah McKay, stole the ball when Peoples attempted an outlet pass and scored a layup as time expired.

From there, Auburn took over, holding the lead for the entire second half.

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Entering the third quarter Florida trailed 48-43. The Gators would exit the period with 48 points, marking their lowest-scoring quarter of the season.

"I don’t think they really made too many changes," Butler said of Auburn’s second-half adjustments. "Carlie (Needles) still took good shots, they just didn’t fall. That happens."

The deficit steadily grew on the Gators, with the final deficit of 22 being the largest of the game.

Normally a team that relies on its depth, Florida was more top-heavy than usual.

Junior Ronni Williams led Florida with 16 points and came one rebound shy of a double-double. Needles was the only other Gator in double figures with 15.

"I thought we played a brand of basketball that was absolutely not us," Butler said. "We didn’t do a very good job of sharing the ball."

With the loss, Florida was bumped from third to fifth in the SEC standings while Auburn jumped from fifth to fourth. The top four teams get a bye in the upcoming SEC tournament, meaning Florida is now on the outside looking in for that bye.

The good news for Florida is that it gets another shot at Auburn, this time at home in its season finale.

But right now, Florida’s focus isn’t redemption against the Tigers. It’s avoiding another hangover this Thursday when the Vanderbilt Commodores visit Gainesville.

"We did not handle adversity with very much maturity and that’s not who we are," Butler said.

"We have a quick opportunity to turn things around against a very good Vanderbilt team. It’s going to take a lot of leadership and we talk about that every day."

Contact Ethan Bauer at and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri

UF's Carlie Needles looks to pass the ball during Florida's 85-79 win over Kentucky on Jan. 31, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

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