Guard Funda Nakkasoglu stepped to the free-throw line amid a monster, 23-point performance.
A frenzied Vanderbilt crowd yelped and screamed, desperately trying to distract the fifth-year player. With a calm demeanor, she knocked them both down to cross 2,000 career points.
She looked to the rafters with a smile, allowing herself to embraced the moment for just a second and then got back on defense.
Nakkasoglu’s impressive showing in her final regular-season game as a Gator helped the Florida women’s basketball team hold off Vanderbilt 78-66 on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak. The win in Nashville also secured UF’s first road win of the season.
Both teams traded buckets in the first half. Florida (7-22, 3-13 SEC) prioritized stopping Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, Mariella Fasoula, who came into the matchup averaging 16.5 points per game.
UF did well, doubling the 6-foot-5 forward every time she touched the ball and holding her to just five first-half points.
A tireless, full-court press by the Gators also created 12 turnovers in the opening half, allowing guards Delicia Washington and Danielle Rainey to score in transition. The duo registered 14 first-half points, and Washington made four of her last five shots in a 10-4 UF run to tie the game before the intermission.
The stout interior defense came at the cost of lousy positioning at the perimeter. Vanderbilt (7-22, 2-14 SEC) matched its per-game average in the first half with five three-pointers.
UF gave guard Chelsie Hall open looks from all over the court, and she made them pay. The freshman made two three-pointers and finished with 20 points to help the Commodores stay in the game.
But after shooting 0 for 7 from beyond the arc in the first two quarters, Florida began to find its rhythm from deep in the second half.
Nakkasoglu caught fire with 18 points in the third quarter, including the two free throws that made her just the second active player in the SEC to cross 2,000 career points (Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham, 2,060). The fifth-year guard finished the game with 23 points and five three-pointers after she was held to just two points in the first half.
Washington was also a big factor down the stretch. The junior tallied her seventh career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Coach Cam Newbauer said after the game that Washington’s performance was one of the best of her career with clutch free throws and big rebounds.
Florida now awaits seeding for the SEC Tournament but is expected to receive the No. 13 seed and play in the first round on Wednesday.
“You talk about wanting to be at your best in March,” Newbauer said. “I thought this was our best second half this season. Loved the energy from the bench and all of our players today.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
UF guard Funda Nakkasoglu became the second active player in the SEC to cross 2,000 career points in the Gators' regular-season finale victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday.