All five players on the court for Florida sprinted to the defensive end of the floor, positioned themselves into a 2-3 zone and fiercely slapped the hardwood of the O’Connell Center with the palms of their hands.
It’s an in-game ritual the Gators do on every big defensive possession. But it wasn't enough on Monday night when UF took on Ole Miss.
Playing in front of a crowd of 1,219, the Rebels defeated Florida, 84-75, to keep UF winless at home in SEC competition this season.
Senior forward Ronni Williams led the Gators (11-12, 2-8 SEC) with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field to continue her exceptional stretch of play since conference competition began. Junior forward Haley Lorenzen and freshman guard Delicia Washington also totaled 14 points apiece in the loss.
For Ole Miss (15-8, 4-6 SEC), sophomore guard Madinah Muhammad knocked down four shots from behind the three-point line to finish with a game-high 22 points. Freshman center Shelby Gibson also played well in the absence of typical starter Taylor Manuel, scoring 16 points, pulling down six boards and blocking two shots.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed,” coach Amanda Butler said. “Very disappointed in our defense. Very disappointed with our effort, in particular on that end of the floor. I don’t really have anything to say beyond that.”
After an evenly matched first 10 minutes that saw the Gators take a 20-19 lead, Ole Miss retaliated to begin the second quarter.
Three-point jumpers from Gibson, Muhammad and junior guard Shandricka Sessom sparked a 12-0 run to give the Rebels a nine-point advantage halfway through the period.
A 7-2 run from Florida in the final two minutes of the half, however, allowed the Gators to claw back to a three-point deficit to enter the intermission.
The battle continued into the final two quarters of action.
Multiple baskets from Washington, Lorenzen and junior guard Dyandria Anderson brought UF to within two points at the end of the third frame.
The Gators continued to keep it close in the final minutes of action until jumpers from Gibson, Sessom and Muhammad gave Ole Miss a 73-64 lead with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter.
Florida got no closer than six points following those three field goals, ultimately stopping UF from notching its first home SEC win since Feb. 28, 2016.
“Defensive pride, you have to take it personally,” Lorenzen said. “We didn’t take heart in it tonight.”
Next up for Florida, it’ll face the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks (13-10, 2-8 SEC) on Thursday night in the O’Connell Center. The Gators have won two straight and five of their last six contests against Arkansas.
“I really believe in this team and how good they are,” Butler said. “But I also have been around long enough to know how good our league is. We’ve got to take great pride in defending the other team.”
UF forward Ronni Williams attempts a layup during Florida's 84-75 loss to Ole Miss on Feb. 6, 2017, in the O'Connell Center.