Down by 15 with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Florida women’s basketball team played like a group desperate for its first conference win.
Senior forward Haley Lorenzen caught a pass in the paint, dribbled once to her left and went up for a layup, clanking the ball off the side of the rim. Senior guard Dyandria Anderson attempted a putback in midair, but hit the same spot as Lorenzen.
Anderson grabbed her own rebound and kicked it out to teammate Delicia Washington, whose three-point attempt rattled off the rim.
Lorenzen went up with a defender draped on her back and finally tipped the ball in with one hand while drawing a foul.
It was the start of a fervent comeback attempt for UF that fell just short as the Gators (8-10, 0-5 SEC) lost 66-59 to LSU (11-5, 3-2 SEC) on Sunday afternoon at the O’Connell Center.
“We let our mistakes kind of dictate what we were trying to do,” Lorenzen said, “versus us taking control, taking a deep breath and running what we can do.”
Florida’s prospects of winning its first SEC game looked promising in the first half. UF led 33-29 at the break after building a 12-point lead three minutes into the second quarter. Florida’s defense held the Tigers to 1-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc, and the team outworked LSU on the glass, posting a plus-four rebounding margin.
The Gators also overcame one of their greatest weaknesses: the full-court press. After the Tigers registered three steals in the first three and half minutes of the game, UF adjusted and found a way to advance the ball down court, committing just one turnover the rest of the quarter.
Coming out of the break, LSU stepped up its defense without the use of a press. The Tigers held Florida to nine points in the third quarter and regained the lead with six minutes to go in the period, one which they would never relinquish.
Redshirt junior guard Funda Nakkasoglu, Florida’s leading scorer, went just 1-of-5 from the field in the second half. As a team, the Gators shot 24.3 percent from the field during that stretch.
Nakkasoglu said the attitude the team displayed during the game shifted dramatically out of the halftime break.
“You saw the fight, especially at the beginning,” Nakkasoglu said. “Unfortunately, we came out a bit lackadaisical (in the second half).”
Sparked by Lorenzen’s fourth-quarter tip in, Florida went on a 10-0 run in three minutes to trim its deficit down to five with 2:44 remaining. However, thanks to seven made free throws from LSU down the stretch, the Tigers put the game away without much trouble.
Despite the loss, Lorenzen and Washington each turned in a double-double. Lorenzen tied her season high with 20 points and brought down 10 rebounds, while Washington posted 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The Gators will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on the Razorbacks Thursday night at 7.
Coach Cameron Newbauer, who has emphasized the importance of mental toughness from his team, said this game was one more example of that necessity.
“Back to the drawing board,” Newbauer said. “Back to fighting, back to clawing. We need more fight if we’re gonna get anything done.”
Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Haley Lorenzen matched a season high with 20 points and added 10 rebounds against LSU in a 66-59 loss on Sunday. “We let our mistakes kind of dictate what we were trying to do,” Lorenzen said.