Mercer preceded Thursday’s game in Macon, Georgia, by unveiling a banner in the rafters of Hawkins Arena for its 2017 Southern Conference championship appearance. The banner reigned over a 92-82 Gators loss in which they never held the lead.
Here’s what went wrong in UF’s loss to the Bears:
Whenever Florida (0-3) seemed to gain a little momentum, Mercer (2-1) took it away with a big run.
Florida surged to an 8-0 run in the first quarter to trim the deficit to two, but that was answered with a 7-0 run by Mercer to shift the momentum back and deflate Florida’s energy.
The Gators again stormed back late in the fourth quarter with a 14-1 run led by junior guard Delicia Washington, but it was again met with an 8-0 run by Mercer to put the game out of reach.
“They hit big threes off offensive rebounds, and we gave them clean looks at the rim,” coach Cam Newbauer said after the game. “Really good team. They took it to us, and we didn’t respond.”
The Gators’ inability to get key defensive stops late in the game was a big reason for the loss.
Stopping KeKe Calloway
The 5-foot-9 senior wearing double zero on her back imposed her will from the first shot of the game. Florida had no answers for the guard who came into the matchup averaging 26 points per game.
Keke Calloway created runs for her team with impressive shooting from all over the court, including one in the third quarter that she started with a three and capped off with a deep, buzzer-beating shot from the logo at center court.
“We gave her way too many open shots,” Newbauer said after the game. “We defended her well at the end, but it was too much too late.”
Calloway’s speed with the ball and sharpshooter accuracy was too much for the Gators to handle, and her 30 points, 18 of them coming from beyond the arc, were a big difference maker in the loss on Thursday.
New players underperforming
Against Florida State on Sunday, Washington and fellow veteran guard Funda Nakkasoglu combined for 34 points and hounded 14 rebounds, but Florida lost as the rest of the team added just 22 more points.
On Thursday, Washington and Nakkasoglu were again hung out to dry when their combined 56-point performance went in vain as the rest of the team accounted for just 26 points on 26 percent shooting.
Only two other Gators -- forward Kristina Moore and guard Ariel Johnson -- made more than one shot in the game. They combined for 16 of the 26 points not scored by Washington or Nakkasoglu.
“Too much one-on-one ball, and it wasn’t enough tonight,” Newbauer said. “We just have to stick with the plan, stick with the process.”
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Florida guards Funda Nakkasoglu (pictured) and Delicia Washington combined for 56 points in UF’s 92-82 loss against Mercer.