Bethune-Cookman guard Angel Golden drove to the basket in the second quarter looking to end Florida’s 5-0 run. She, instead, met a sea of orange as all five UF defenders converged on her in the paint, disrupting her shot and sending her to the floor in a heap.
Golden took a deep breath, swallowed the frustration and got up just in time to see the Gators make an easy layup on the other side of the court.
Solid defensive plays gave the Florida women’s basketball team its second win in a row on Wednesday at the O’Connell Center over Bethune-Cookman 64-53. This was the first time since Jan. 21 that the Gators have won consecutive games.
“The first half wasn’t pretty,” coach Cam Newbauer said after the game, “but we came out in the second half, made adjustments and played more fluidly on offense.”
Florida (2-6) was without its leading scorer, Funda Nakkasoglu, in Wednesday’s contest due to an ankle injury. Guards Delicia Washington and Ariel Johnson took over the offensive duties in her place.
Johnson dished out five assists and scored 12 points with great off-ball movement while Washington scored a team-high 16 points along with 10 rebounds and an assist. Without Nakkasoglu, the 5-foot-10 guard was given the green light from deep-range, shooting a team-high seven three pointers and making three of them.
“Danielle Rainey and Funda Nakkasoglu told me that I needed to give more,” Washington said. “I knew we had one man down, so everybody has to step up a little bit more. When they said that to me, it just gave me that much more energy.”
As the Wildcats (4-3) keyed in on the perimeter shooters, forwards Zada Williams and Kristina Moore began to make shots in the post. Williams said after the game that BCU refused to double her as they were too worried about UF’s outside shooting.
The duo combined for 26 points and contributed in a great rebounding night for the Gators, combining for 11 boards in a season-high 48 rebounds for Florida.
“Practice,” Williams said of the team’s solid rebounding performance. “We do a lot of rebounding drills and (the coaching staff) stresses rebounding a lot. Just trusting that rebounding is a very important part of the game and securing a win. We just went off of that.”
The balanced offensive effort kept Florida in the game, but it was the defense creating turnovers that pushed it over the top and allowed the Gators to go on a 9-0 run into the half to take a lead that they would not give up.
Golden, who came into the matchup averaging 20 points per game, was held to just three points on three total shots in the first half as the Gators swarmed her in the paint without fouling her and contested every shot out in the perimeter. As a team, Bethune-Cookman was held to just a 33.3 field goal percentage in the game.
“(Golden) is a very, very prolific scorer,” Newbauer said. “We just had a collective game plan where we would make her work for everything and give nothing easy. I think we did that.”
Though the Florida team is gaining confidence, there are some things that Newbauer said needs to be worked on before its match against Florida A&M on Sunday.
The UF coach noted that his team’s field goal percentage was low despite solid offensive performances. While Washington led her team in points, she also shot just a 29.4 percentage from the field. Newbauer said that the guards on the perimeter still need to be smarter in picking their shots.
“Any time you’ve got as many new players as we do, it’s going to take some time,” Newbauer said. “That’s just a process. I know we’ll get there.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter at @dyrudolph and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guard Delicia Washington led the Gators in scoring with 16 points against Bethune-Cookman. She also finished with 10 rebounds and an assist.