As the final two minutes of the first quarter began to tick down, Ronni Williams stood at the top of the key, ball in her hands, and stared down defender Jasmine Lumpkin.
Little did Lumpkin know, Williams was about to put her on skates.
The UF senior forward suddenly began driving towards the right side of the basket before quickly coming to a screeching halt and crossing over to her left.
Lumpkin, unable to react properly, stumbled backwards and listened to the crowd cheer as Williams converted the easy layup.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, however, Florida fans wouldn’t be quite as joyful. The Gators (9-9, 0-5 SEC) fell to Texas A&M 67-59 at the O’Connell Center on Sunday afternoon to continue their worst start to SEC play in 10 years.
Williams led UF with 22 points on 11-of-19 shooting and also pulled down six rebounds. Junior guard Dyandria Anderson also finished with 12 points and dished out eight assists.
For the Aggies, the backcourt of sophomore Danni Williams and senior Curtyce Knox scored 25 and 16 points, respectively, and junior center Khaalia Hillsman tallied 15 points and nine rebounds of her own.
Despite turning the ball over a season-low 11 times, the difference in the game for Florida was shots made from behind the arc and at the charity stripe.
The Gators only took five free throws, knocking down three of them, while Texas A&M was 12-of-14 on foul shots. The Aggies (14-4, 4-1 SEC) also made nine three-point field goals on 15 attempts, opposed to UF’s lowly 2-of-16 tries from deep.
“Texas A&M played really well in the moments that I felt mattered most,” head coach Amanda Butler said, “so you have to give them credit for that.”
Florida began the game in sync offensively, shooting 64.7 percent from the floor in the first quarter behind a quick start from Williams, freshman guard Delicia Washington and freshman forward Sydney Morang, who each tallied six points in the opening frame.
The Gators then locked down defensively in the second quarter, holding the Aggies to a meager nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in the period. UF’s strong start actually put them ahead 36-35 at halftime, marking the first time this season it led at the intermission against a conference opponent.
However, the second half proved to be a different story for Florida. The Gators collapsed offensively, shooting 32.3 percent from the floor in the final two frames while also going 0-of-9 from behind the arc.
Danni Williams also did most of her damage in the final 20 minutes, scoring 18 second-half points to help her team begin to pull away in the middle of the third quarter.
Three-point jumpers from Williams at the 5:20 and 3:22 marks of the third quarter and a layup at the 1:58 mark propelled the Aggies on a 10-3 to give them a six point lead near the end of the period.
Two more three-pointers from the SEC’s leading scorer in the final quarter solidified the victory for Texas A&M, which kept Florida from getting no closer than seven points in the final six minutes of action.
“(Danni Williams) is a great player,” Ronni Williams said after the loss. “I knew what she was capable of doing.”
Next up for UF, it will attempt to rebound from its 0-5 start to SEC play when it travels to Athens next Sunday to face the Georgia Bulldogs. The last time the Gators began their conference season with five losses was the 2006-07 season under former head coach Carolyn Peck.
If one person has confidence Florida can rebound from its rough start, it’s Aggies head coach Gary Blair.
“Florida is the best 0-5 team in any conference, anywhere,” Blair said. “There is no way they’re going to finish at the bottom of this league.”
Florida's Ronni Williams looks to pass during UF's 85-79 win over Kentucky on Jan. 31, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.