The Gators walked into the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, without one of the most important elements in the game of basketball: height. The team was down its starting 6-foot-1 forward, Kristina Moore, after she injured her arm Sunday against Arkansas, and her absence was evident from the first whistle to the last.
Towering Tennessee players glided with ease to the rim as the undersized Florida team hopelessly tried to stop them.
The Volunteers led the whole way in Thursday’s matchup to hand the Gators women’s basketball team its fourth-straight loss, 67-50.
Tennessee (14-7, 3-5 SEC) used its size to bully UF in the paint early, and it resulted in run after run with easy shots close to the basket.
UT jumped on the Gators’ weak interior defense in the first quarter with aggressiveness and pressure in the paint to go on a 19-4 run with 6-foot-3 Cheridene Green and 6-foot-2 Rennia Davis leading the way. The duo combined for 12 points in the opening quarter and 34 points as well as 20 rebounds (10 each) by the end of the game.
UT players passed fluidly around the press to get open shots.
The Volunteers also used the height advantage to haul in endless rebounds over the undersized Gators. Green grabbed six of Tennessee’s 11 offensive boards, and UT converted those to 13 second-chance points. UF grabbed 10 offensive rebounds itself but only scored four second-chance points.
Tennessee went into the break with a 12-point lead by shooting 52 percent from the field and out-rebounding Florida 23-12.
Florida’s defense tightened up in the second half, though, and began to contest more shots. Tennessee scored just 13 points in the third quarter, one of the lowest of the season for the high-powered offense that came into the contest averaging 77.4 points per game.
But the UF offense did not take advantage of the UT drought, failing to outdo Tennessee’s 13-point third quarter with just nine of its own.
Guards Danielle Rainey and Delicia Washington found no rhythm all game, combining for a dreadful 0 for 15 from the field. Washington, who returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game with a concussion, looked rusty and could not handle the constant defensive pressure set by the Volunteers. Coach Cam Newbauer noted after the game that he had to have more out of those two guards if they were going to compete in games moving forward.
“Shots just didn’t go down. We had some really good looks, but nothing was falling,” he said. “We got the looks, but (Tennessee) hit their shots.”
Guard Funda Nakkasoglu was one of the few positives for Florida. The redshirt senior scored a team-high 18 points, most of them coming from strong drives to the paint with lots of contact.
Her teammates will need to shoot much better and fight for more rebounds if they want to end the losing streak on Sunday against No. 19 Kentucky in Lexington.
“We knew (rebounding) was going to be a problem,” Newbauer said. “We wanted everyone to get in there and scrap, but it just didn’t work out. But we need to keep scrapping and keep fighting because we got another game on Sunday.”
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Florida guard Funda Nakkasoglu dropped a team-high 18 points in UF’s 67-50 loss to Tennessee on Thursday in Knoxville.