Tennessee may be five years removed from legendary coach Pat Summitt leading its sideline, but nothing has changed when it comes to the Volunteers beating up on the Gators.
Playing in front of a crowd of 2,059 at the O’Connell Center on Thursday, Tennessee ran its all-time record against Florida up to 49-4, defeating UF 84-75.
The Volunteers were led by redshirt junior guard Diamond DeShields, who totaled 27 points on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting performance. Junior guard Jaime Nared had a solid night as well, scoring 16 points and pulling down seven rebounds.
The Gators, on the other hand, received a standout offensive outing from senior forward Ronni Williams. The Daytona Beach native tallied 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the floor and 11-of-13 shooting from the charity stripe.
Despite picking up her fourth foul halfway through the third quarter to limit her minutes in the second half, Williams was able to record the second 30-point game of her career, receiving praise from coach Amanda Butler after the loss.
“She’s just been a model example of what a senior looks like, what a competitor looks like and what a pro athlete looks like,” Butler said.
Regardless of Williams' performance, though, three-point shooting and free-throw attempts were ultimately UF’s downfall.
Florida (10-10, 1-6 SEC) struggled all night from behind the arc, missing nine of its 10 attempts to continue its woes from deep in 2017. Tennessee also went to the charity stripe 18 more times than Florida did, drawing frustration from junior forward Haley Lorenzen.
“We know that we’re better than that,” Lorenzen said. “We know that when we get a good team at the free-throw line, they’re usually going to make those shots. Those were easy points that are the difference maker in the game.”
Tennessee (13-7, 4-3 SEC) set the tone early on in the contest, knocking down seven of its first eight shots to spark a 27-10 run.
But the Gators clawed back, scoring the game’s next 13 points off four made baskets from Williams to reduce the Volunteers' lead to four.
Florida hit a cold streak once again to finish the half, however, falling back into a 48-34 deficit heading into the intermission.
“We’re really disappointed in our first half,” Butler said. “That was kind of the story of the game for us.”
UF improved in the game’s final 20 minutes of action, pulling down 11 offensive rebounds to generate seven second-chance points.
The Gators' 46.9 shooting percentage in the second half assisted them in outscoring the Volunteers 41-36 in the third and fourth quarter, but their early-game struggles proved to be too much to overcome.
Coming up for Florida, it’ll look to bounce back on Sunday with a matchup against the Vanderbilt Commodores at 3 p.m. Despite six losses in its first seven SEC games this season, Butler continues to express confidence in her team moving forward.
“We’ll bounce back and show the resilience of a champion,” she said. “It’s what I know our leaders will model for our younger players, and our younger players will follow their example.
UF forward Ronni Williams dribbles the ball during Florida's 84-75 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2017, in the O'Connell Center.