Cam Newbauer just looked down in the post-game press conference. The typically optimistic coach was quiet after his team gave up over 90 points for a second-straight game.
The offense clicked, but numerous times South Carolina rushed down the court and had wide-open shots while UF players still celebrated their points.
“Our defense has definitely got to get better,” Newbauer said. “It starts with transition defense. Have to get better in that area.”
No. 11 South Carolina used its fast-paced play to defeat the Florida women’s basketball team 96-77 Sunday at the O’Connell Center. The loss was UF’s seventh in its last eight games and the 10th straight against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina came into the matchup having won six of its last seven games, but Florida (6-19, 2-10 SEC) did not look intimidated. Donning their bright pink jerseys for the annual Play4Kay Pink Game, the Gators used strong drives and excellent passing to go on an 18-2 run in the opening quarter. Guards Danielle Rainey and Kiara Smith led the way, combining for 13 points and three rebounds.
But once South Carolina settled in, the momentum began to shift.
The Gamecocks (19-6, 11-1 SEC) quickly stole the lead back in the second quarter. Florida’s transition defense was exposed when South Carolina began to effectively use its up-tempo offense. The consequence was a 16-2 South Carolina run and an eight-point deficit heading into the halftime break.
Guards Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Destanni Henderson commanded the offense, combining for 28 points (14 each) and four rebounds in the half.
South Carolina continued its surge in the second half when forward Alexis Jennings began to impose herself by using her huge, 6-foot-3 frame against Florida’s smaller interior defense. UF forward Zada Williams struggled to guard her in the post for much of the game and received little help defense from her teammates, allowing Jennings to bully her way to a 17-point third quarter and a 22-point game on 8-for-11 shooting.
“She’s a good player,” Williams said after the game. “She was closing hard, posting really deep. I have to give her credit. She really busted her tail to get the ball, and that’s what happened.”
Jennings’ performance broke the game open, and South Carolina extended its lead with seemingly every possession. The Gamecocks shot over 60 percent from the field in the second half, and five players finished with nine or more points.
Florida tried to match South Carolina shot for shot, but the Gamecocks' defense adjusted well after giving up 25 points in the first quarter. The Gamecocks closed out well on the perimeter and contested every attempt.
The Gators had five players with 10 or more points but made just 39 percent of their shots after the opening quarter, including a dreadful 16 percent from three-point range.
“Us being stagnant when they went to zone (defense) kind of hurt us,” Williams said. “Not really moving on weak sides. Not really finding open people. We have to work on our offense against that zone defense.”
Florida will need to find confidence on both sides of the ball before it travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Thursday to play LSU. Newbauer said he hopes that his players don’t get too discouraged after losing to one of the best teams in the SEC.
“We talk a lot about passion and purpose,” Newbauer said. “Losing is not fun. It steals your passion when you get beat up sometimes…I’m just proud that even though we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, they keep clawing and keep sticking together.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF women's basketball coach Cam Newbauer: Losing is not fun. It steals your passion when you get beat up sometimes.