Trailing by two with less than seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Gators inbounded the ball in front of their bench. After a cross-court pass from forward Haley Lorenzen found guard Funda Nakkasoglu open on the right side of the court, Nakkasoglu attempted an off-balance three-pointer.
Her shot bounced off the left side of the backboard and ended Florida’s hopes of picking up its first SEC win of the season as UF came up short against Kentucky, 56-53, at the O’Connell Center on Thursday night.
When asked about the decision on the final play, coach Cameron Newbauer reaffirmed his support in Nakkasoglu, who’s leading the team in scoring this season with 15.2 points per game.
“She makes tough shots. It’s what she can do,” Newbauer said. “So that’s why we went to her.”
The loss moves Florida to 0-4 in SEC play, despite the team holding a lead in the fourth quarter or overtime in three of the four contests.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating,” Newbauer said. “You don’t wanna focus on the results, but tonight we felt like we had a chance. We’ve just got to keep getting better, keep fighting.”
The Gators have failed to shoot over 40 percent from the field in every SEC matchup this season and continued their struggles against Kentucky on Thursday.
In the first quarter alone, UF made only 4-of-17 shots, scoring 10 points in the process. At halftime, Florida was shooting only 23.3 percent on 30 attempts from the floor.
“It’s coming out ready to play from the start,” senior Haley Lorenzen said. “We’ve gotta fight how we fight in the second half. And not just when we’re down, but when we’re up, when we’re even, we’ve gotta fight all the time.”
A 15-6 run to start the second half — led by the Gators knocking down 5-of-6 shots from beyond the arc in a four-minute span — helped Florida jump out to a seven-point lead.
But two three-pointers from Kentucky’s Amanda Paschal in the fourth quarter helped mount a Wildcats comeback, and another perimeter jumper from Taylor Murray with 54 seconds left in the game helped UK increase its lead to five.
For Florida, Lorenzen finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, nearly grabbing her ninth double-double of the season, and graduate senior Paulina Hersler tied a career-high with 19 points while also grabbing eight rebounds.
Over the next two days, Florida will be back on the practice court in preparation for a visit from LSU on Sunday.
“Going into practice (Friday), it has to be a positive mindset of we are getting better,” Lorenzen said. “Even though we keep losing, we’re just that much closer.”
Follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1 and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funda Nakkasoglu, Florida's leading scorer with 15.2 points per game, struggled to put away buckets against Kentucky. She shot 3-of-15 from the field for 8 points.