The shift in Cameron Newbauer’s mood between Sunday’s postgame press conference and Tuesday’s practice was palpable.
After Florida’s 66-59 loss to LSU over the weekend, Newbauer — the UF women’s basketball team’s first-year coach — was quiet. Shaking his head in disbelief over the fact the Gators had blown a 12-point first-half lead, he questioned the fight of his players in the face of adversity.
At Tuesday’s practice, however, Newbauer smiled as he faced the media.
“This group responds,” Newbauer said. “They respond from film, they respond from just their own personal thoughts from the game. I look forward to practice each day because of that.”
Florida (8-10, 0-5 SEC) will put a newfound confidence to the test Thursday as it takes on Arkansas in Fayetteville at 7 p.m.
The Razorbacks (11-7, 2-3 SEC) are headed by junior guard Malica Monk, who is leading her team in minutes played for the second consecutive year.
At 5-foot-5, Monk will be the shortest starter on the court for either team, though she is not short on physicality. She has attempted 102 free throws this season, which is more than the top two Gators combined. Monk also leads her team with 16.4 points per game.
Leading the charge down in the post for the Razorbacks is forward/center Kiara Williams. The 6-foot-1 sophomore is shooting an even 50 percent from the field and averages 7.8 rebounds per game. Williams is a key component in the Razorbacks’ offense, bringing down just over three offensive rebounds per game.
Arkansas also rolls deep with its bench play. Three Razorback reserves have played in every game so far, averaging 15.5 minutes per game between them.
When asked about Arkansas, Newbauer praised the athleticism and energy of the program.
“(They’re) a hard-playing team,” Newbauer said. “They put the ball on the floor a lot, so we’re going to have to guard the penetration often. It’s definitely a tough matchup for us, and they play very well at home.”
One other aspect Newbauer may need to worry about is the Razorbacks’ full-court press. Although he said he didn’t see much front-court pressure from Arkansas while watching its game film, that hasn’t stopped other SEC teams from exploiting Florida’s biggest weakness: ball control.
UF is averaging 15.9 turnovers per game this season, good for third worst in the SEC. Newbauer said he doesn’t expect the Razorbacks to apply that pressure but would welcome the opportunity to see how his team responds to it.
“That’s the best part about this,” Newbauer said. “We’ve got another chance to see if we’ve grown and improved in the past couple of days.”
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“This group responds,” coach Cameron Newbauer said. “They respond from film, they respond from just their own personal thoughts from the game. I look forward to practice each day because of that.”