The Gators tried to get one last shot off before the buzzer sounded. They had an excellent opening quarter on Sunday against Arkansas and were up by 12.
Guard Kiara Smith mishandled the ball, and it went careening toward the scorer’s table. Forward Kristina Moore, in her attempt to save the play, dived, landed awkwardly on her left arm and stayed grounded well after the buzzer sounded.
After a few minutes, she was gingerly led off the court and into the locker room while coach Cam Newbauer looked at his bench trying to find someone to fill her role.
The Florida women’s basketball team will look to end a three-game skid on Thursday in Knoxville, Tennessee, when it faces the Lady Volunteers. But it will do so without its 6-foot-1 forward in the lineup.
Moore, who is currently the only player to start all 20 games this season, is expected to miss up to six weeks while she recovers from a left arm injury. She'll leave a big hole in a lineup that already lacks the size to compete with other teams in the paint.
The Gators rank dead last in the SEC in total blocks this season with 17 and are the only team in the conference to average less than a block per game. Moore leads the team in blocks with five on the year, and her absence will worsen an already weak interior defense.
“The team really needed to overcome some adversity with Kristina (Moore) going down like that,” Newbauer said after the game on Sunday. “They played well, adjusted well. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
Tennessee will try to take advantage of that hole in the middle on Thursday by using the size and aggressiveness of forward Rennia Davis. The sophomore’s 6-foot-2 frame will create mismatches against Florida’s undersized interior defense.
Davis averages 13.6 points per game and pulls down a team-leading 7.7 rebounds.
Florida will rely on forward Zada Williams to anchor the middle of the defense. The redshirt junior is second on the team in total blocks (4) and rebounds per game (5). She will need to play at another level entirely while her frontcourt partner is out.
There is some reason for optimism heading into the game on Thursday, though. Junior guard Delicia Washington is expected to return from a one-game absence after suffering a blow to the head against Mississippi State on Jan. 24. She leads the team in rebounds per game (7.9) and is second in scoring (11 points per game).
Her return will add much needed speed and athleticism to a roster without Moore’s presence in the post. UF will depend on her agility and quickness at the perimeter to help defend against a Tennessee offense which ranks second in the SEC in scoring (77.4 points per game). Washington will need to contain UT’s high-powered offense headed by Evina Westbrook, who leads the Lady Volunteers with 16.3 points per game.
“We have confidence in every player in our locker room and their abilities,” guard Funda Nakkasoglu said. “I think that’s what makes us such a good group of girls.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Florida guard Delicia Washington is expected to return for Thursday's game against Tennessee. She took a hit to the head against Mississippi State on Jan. 24 that forced her to sit out a game as she went through concussion protocol.