It was the pace.
Florida players huffed and puffed late in the game after spending the entire contest chasing Arkansas’ speedsters.
“We knew it was going to be 40 minutes of sprints. It wears you down,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “The pace definitely gave us some problems for sure.”
The fast-paced play resulted in the UF women’s basketball team suffering its third-straight loss, 83-73, on Sunday at the O’Connell Center.
In the first quarter, Florida kept it contained. The Gators (5-15, 1-6 SEC) used Arkansas’ offensive aggressiveness against them. The Razorbacks, which came into the matchup ranked No. 8 in the nation in three-pointers attempted (521), took too many contested shots early in the shot clock and allowed UF to grab most of the rebounds with solid box outs. Florida’s offense, on the other hand, stayed patient and took smart shots.
The strategy worked. Point guard Kiara Smith scored five points and dished a couple assists in a 9-1 run to open the game. UF had all the momentum.
But as the clock ran down in the quarter, forward Kristina Moore fell awkwardly trying to dive after a loose ball. The freshman disappeared into the locker room with two coaches, eventually emerging again in the fourth quarter to watch the rest of the game wearing a sling on her left arm.
The loss of Moore crippled any momentum Florida had. Mismatches became a problem for UF without its 6-foot-1 forward in the center, and Arkansas (16-5, 5-2 SEC) began to make its shots.
The Razorbacks went on a 15-3 run in the second quarter that was capped off by guard Jailyn Mason’s three-pointer at the buzzer. The run pushed them to a two-point lead heading into the break, but UF wouldn’t go away.
The lead began to seesaw in the third quarter as both teams continued to make their shots.
Florida took the lead back early in the quarter with a 10-2 run. But Arkansas responded with a 7-0 run to jump ahead once again. UF guard Funda Nakkasoglu answered with a wild layup while being fouled and made the free throw to steal the lead back. But that was responded with an easy layup by Arkansas’ Malica Monk on the other end.
The back-and-forth sequence was ended by a 7-2 Arkansas run thanks to big plays from Monk and guard Chelsea Dungee. The duo combined for 50 points (25 points each) by the end of the game and helped put it out of reach.
“Monk had a heck of a game today,” Newbauer said. “I think we made her uncomfortable early, but once she kind of settled in, she hit some big-time shots.”
Nakkasoglu’s effort helped secure her ninth 20-point game of the season. Smith and guard Danielle Rainey each finished with double-doubles on a combined 33 points and 21 rebounds. Florida outrebounded Arkansas 43-35 even without Moore in the middle for most of the game.
But none of it was good enough.
This was the second-consecutive contest where UF won the rebounding battle but lost the game. Defensive breakdowns allowed Arkansas to score 58 points in two quarters. Despite shooting a dreadful 50 percent from the free-throw line, was too much for the Gators to overcome.
Early reports say that Moore’s injury may take as long as six weeks to fully heal. If true, the Australian will miss her first game of the season when Florida travels to Knoxville, Tennessee, to take on the Lady Volunteers. This is a significant loss for a UF team that is already undersized.
Florida was also without its second-leading scorer, Delicia Washington, who is going through the concussion protocol after suffering an injury against Mississippi State on Thursday when she took an elbow to the face. Washington is expected to be back at practice this week.
“I did think we did a great job of overcoming adversity, even with Kristina (Moore) getting hurt,” Newbauer said. “Obviously it wasn’t good enough, but we learned a lot for the future.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Guard Kiara Smith pitched in a double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds) in Florida’s 83-73 home loss to Arkansas on Sunday. She also recorded a team-high five assists.