If you told Florida women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer that the Gators out-rebounded No. 7 Mississippi State and held its leading scorer, Teaira McCowan, to just two points, he probably wouldn’t have expected his team to get blown out.
But they did.
Mississippi State dominated almost every other facet of the game in its 90-42 victory over the Gators on Thursday night at the O’Connell Center. The 48-point loss was the worst Florida has suffered since last February — the last time the Bulldogs came to Gainesville.
“We got better tonight. We fought,” the always-positive Newbauer said. “We learned a lot, and we will grow from this game for sure.”
After the Gators (5-14, 1-5 SEC) jumped out to a 5-4 lead early, it was all Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (18-1, 6-0 SEC) rode the hot hand of forward Anriel Howard to a 17-2 run and led 27-9 after the first quarter.
It was a career quarter for the graduate transfer, who scored 17 of Mississippi State’s 27 points on her way to a 21-point, eight rebound performance in just 21 minutes.
Guard Funda Nakkasoglu was the only Gator to score in the quarter.
Things went from bad to worse early in the fourth quarter for Florida when the team’s second-leading scorer, Delicia Washington, went down after taking an elbow from an opponent to the face. There was a lengthy delay as Washington lay on her back on the court, but she gingerly walked off with help from the trainers.
“Any time there’s any sort of activity towards your head, your face, you know, you wanna be precautious,” Newbauer said. “She seems completely normal to be honest, so day-to-day.”
The Bulldogs were on cruise control after the first quarter. Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer liberally made use of substitutions, using 11 players in all. It was shooting practice from the floor for Schaefer’s team as they went 39 of 70 in total and 6 of 12 from three, maneuvering around Florida’s zone defense with ease. The Gators managed just 13 of 50 and 3 of 23 in those categories.
Mississippi State also won the turnover battle as Florida struggled with its full-court press. The press relaxed as the game went on, but Florida’s sloppy play on offense resulted in a 27-10 turnover margin in favor of MSU.
The bright spots for Florida were few and far between. The Gators did hold McCowan to just two points and they did out-rebound the Bulldogs 40-36. Graduate guard Funda Nakkasoglu led the way for Florida in the scoring department, as she has done virtually all season, this time with 14 points.
“We’re gaining more experience,” Newbauer said. “We’d be remiss if we sit here and we’re gonna focus on the scoreboard and realize ‘oh shoot, we lost.’ No, we gotta see where we won today. And we won in a lot of places.”
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF guard Funda Nakkasoglu scored 14 points in Florida’s 90-42 loss to Mississippi State on Thursday night. She was the only Gator to score in the first quarter.