Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin desperately tried to motivate her team during the final timeout of the game. She slammed her clipboard to the ground and pounded her fist against her red leather jacket looking for a reaction from her players, but she was met with silence.
The players could do nothing but sit on the bench, staring at the clock reading 4.8 seconds left in their season.
The Florida women’s basketball team advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, after defeating Ole Miss 64-57 on Wednesday.
The win was Cam Newbauer’s first postseason win as head coach of the Gators. UF now advances to the second round to play No. 5-seeded Missouri on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., who they beat Jan. 13 with a dramatic, last-second shot by junior guard Delicia Washington.
Frantic and sloppy play ruled the first half.
Both teams’ starting lineups featured young, inexperienced players, and their nervousness was evident in the opening minutes. The Rebels missed multiple wide-open layups, and a full-court press forced UF into bad turnovers.
But Florida (8-22, 3-13 SEC) did well defensively to lock down 5-foot-10 guard Shandricka Sessom, harassing her every time she got the ball on the perimeter. Sessom, who came into the matchup averaging almost 10 points per contest was held to just four points.
UF also frequently cut off the Rebels’ passing lanes to create 11 turnovers in the first half.
The Gators had all the momentum late in the second quarter, but an offensive drought where they missed 12 straight field goals allowed Ole Miss (9-22, 3-14 SEC) to crawl back in the game and cut the deficit to just two points heading into the halftime intermission.
But Florida’s veteran players took over in the second half.
Fifth-year guard Funda Nakkasoglu began to find her shot after she was held scoreless in the first half. The Australian scored eight points in the third quarter, including a couple of big three-pointers on a 15-4 run that gave UF a 13-point lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Washington dominated on both sides of the court. She used her athleticism to aggressively drive to the rim and box out players twice her size to grab eight rebounds.
The veteran duo of Washington and Nakkasoglu combined for 34 points (17 each) and 10 rebounds.
Nakkasoglu’s 83 three-pointers this season tied her with Steffi Sorensen for second most ever made by a Florida player in a single season (Brandi McCain, 101).
“Playing with a group of girls that want to go to the next level all the time is a great feeling,” Washington said after the game. “I just have to stay aggressive and dish out to one of them, and I know they’ll knock it down.”
Florida’s defense continued to be active on the perimeter to hold Ole Miss to just 34.5 percent shooting and scored 22 points off the Rebels’ 18 turnovers.
That defense will need to play with the same energy and effectiveness in the next round against a Missouri offense that leads the SEC in made three-pointers per game (8.2).
“Missouri is a great team,” Washington said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we do: knock down open shots, give up good shots for great shots and stay aggressive, and I know we can do it again.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guard Delicia Washington scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the UF women's basketball team's 64-57 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday.