The sparse Florida crowd at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, sheepishly tried to revitalize the players, but only in vain.
Senior Funda Nakkasoglu sat on the bench with a blank stare and her head down as the seconds ticked off in her final collegiate game. When the clock hit zeroes, Missouri players hugged and high fived at midcourt, while the Gators filed off in silence.
The game was over, and the season was over.
"I mean, it's more than you can put into words. I can't necessarily put it in words,” Nakkasoglu said in a release. “It's been incredible. I'm going to miss it. I'm going to cherish it. It hasn't 100% hit, I would say, that this is it. I know what it does, it will hurt. I'll kind of wish that I could get some of those moments back."
The Florida women’s basketball team was eliminated in Round 2 of the SEC Tournament for the second time in three years after an 87-56 loss to No. 5-seeded Missouri on Thursday.
After it held Ole Miss to just 16 first-half points in Round 1, it looked like defense would again be a strength for the Gators in the second round.
UF (8-23, 3-13 SEC) held the Tigers scoreless through the first three minutes of the game, but they used aggressive drives to the basket to draw fouls and started putting points on the board.
Missouri (22-9, 10-6 SEC) players stepped to the charity stripe 10 times in the first quarter and missed just one attempt, allowing them to get into a rhythm and begin to make shots elsewhere on the court.
When guards Sophie Cunningham and Amber Smith settled in, Florida had no answers as they combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds in the first half.
UF also struggled to box out the bigger Missouri players, allowing them to haul in seven offensive rebounds and score 10 second-chance points in the opening two quarters.
Despite the struggles on defense, the Gators stayed in the game thanks to their consistent shooting. Florida shot 37.5 percent from the field but went into the break with a 10-point deficit thanks to a 12-2 run by the Tigers at the end of the half.
The game only got worse in the second half as Missouri hounded Florida on both ends of the court. The Tigers opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run, and UF players began to make unforced errors.
Forward Zada Williams struggled for most of the game, committing four costly turnovers. One in the fourth quarter on an inbound pass that sailed over Nakkasoglu’s head and wound up in the stands on the opposite end of the court.
Missouri’s relentless play crushed what little momentum UF had left. The Gators failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter until 3:50 left on the clock. The offensive collapse allowed the Tigers to go on a 14-0 run.
Nakkasoglu and guard Delicia Washington were the lone bright spots in the otherwise disappointing contest. The duo combined for 24 points and five rebounds but could not make up for the abhorrent performance by the rest of the team.
Florida was outrebounded 38-27 by the much bigger Missouri team and shot just 12.5 percent from beyond the arc in the second half.
“They've grown,” Newbauer said. “...Then to do that and to not have a winning season, not even close to a winning season, keep fighting, keep competing, keep climbing that mountain of adversity every single day, it's hard. I'm a 40-year-old man. It's hard for me to do it. So just seeing their youth, their energy, their enthusiasm to want to be better, just makes me proud and excited for what's to come.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
The Gators women's basketball team ended the season with a 87-56 loss to Missouri on Thursday. Senior Funda Nakkasoglu scored 14 points. "It's been incredible. I'm going to miss it ... I'll kind of wish that I could get some of those moments back," she said.