There wasn’t a particular moment one could point to that swung the momentum of the game. There wasn’t a slick crossover or a single bucket or rebound that signaled it would be Florida’s day.
Instead, as it beat Vanderbilt 88-71 on Sunday afternoon at the O’Connell Center, something happened to the Gators’ women’s basketball team that arguably hadn’t occurred all season.
Everything went according to plan.
Even with guard Delicia Washington questionable heading into the contest with an ankle sprain and lackluster bench play a key issue, they persisted with the plan. Even with Vanderbilt desperately pursuing comeback attempts, Florida executed it to perfection.
The plan, like it has all season, called for a barrage of three-pointers. Coach Cameron Newbauer did not keep that a secret, opting to tell it to the world on his very first day as a Gator.
Throughout their conference schedule, the Gators have been forced to cope with failure in that aspect. Against then-No. 21 Georgia on Jan. 28, the team put up eight attempts from distance in the second half and bricked them all. If Florida makes three of those, the game goes into overtime.
Against the Commodores (6-22, 2-12 SEC), UF shot 40 percent from behind the line and nailed six attempts in each half.
The plan asked for Florida to jump out to a lead and protect it. On the road against then-No. 7 South Carolina on Feb. 11, UF neglected to do so. After crafting a 10-point second-quarter advantage against the Gamecocks, the team sputtered down the stretch to a seven-point loss.
But on Senior Day, the lead ballooned to as much as 26 points before Newbauer subbed the seniors out. It didn’t shrink much below that margin.
Needless to say, the plan has hardly worked out this year. Newbauer knows that.
“If there’s any team in the country that has a reason to not fight — to have an excuse — it’s us,” he said. “And (the players) don’t do that. They buy in.”
Newbauer credited his three seniors — guard Dyandria Anderson and forwards Haley Lorenzen and Paulina Hersler — with instilling that mindset in his team. It showed against the Commodores. The trio combined for 50 points on 19-of-38 shooting.
The only consistency between the original plan and the Gators’ reality this season has been a durable starting lineup. With an inexperienced bench and early season injuries, the three seniors, along with Washington and guard Funda Nakkasoglu, needed to endure long stretches of play. Each starter has averaged over 10 points per game and — with the exception of Delicia Washington (29.9) — over 30 minutes on the court.
Even in a comfortable win over Vanderbilt, that part of the plan still held true, with four of the five starters logging 30 minutes or more.
For Newbauer, his plan may have shown signs of progress Sunday. His plan may be coming together through the trials and tribulations all first-year coaches suffer through. He said he knows the seniors deserve that credit.
“They’ve done it the right way: with no compromise of any integrity or character,” Newbauer said. “That’s what makes it so cool.”
Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forward Haley Lorenzen scored 18 points and recorded her 16th career double-dboule.