Florida had a prime opportunity to reach the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament for the first time under coach Cam Newbauer, but it squandered that chance in the early stages of Thursday night’s game against LSU.
By the end of the opening half, the Tigers had buried the Gators into a 17-point hole behind an efficient offensive performance in the second quarter.
LSU went 10 for 11 from the field — while UF hit on just five of its 12 shots — outscoring the orange and blue by 12 in the period.
No. 10-seeded Florida didn’t crawl back into the game, as the No. 7-seeded Tigers defeated Newbauer’s squad 73-59 in the second round of the SEC Tournament at the Ben Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
The Gators (15-15, 6-10 SEC) clinched an opening-round bye for the first time in four years after doubling their conference win total from last season. Florida’s offense, however, came out sluggish despite the added rest.
All 10 of UF’s available players saw action in the first half, but only four of them managed to score: guards Lavender Briggs, Kiara Smith and Nina Rickards and forward Zada Williams.
LSU (20-9, 9-7 SEC), meanwhile, had seven players find the bottom of the net in the opening 20 minutes.
Florida didn’t take care of the ball in the first half either.
The Gators turned it over nine times, and the Tigers made them pay for it, scoring 14 points off of UF’s mishaps.
Guard Brylee Bartram provided a spark for Florida’s offense in the second half after going scoreless in the first. The freshman finished with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc in the third and fourth quarters combined. Her scoring output against LSU was good enough for second-most on the team.
Briggs was the only player to hit double figures for Florida. Her 9-of-16 showing from the floor led to a game-high 22 points.
The Tigers, on the other hand, had three players score double-digit points.
Guard Khayla Pointer and center Faustine Aifuwa paced LSU’s offense with 19 and 16 points, respectively. Guard/forward Mercedes Brooks chipped in with 13 points off the bench.
Even with Thursday night’s loss, Florida is still eligible for the postseason for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign. Newbauer and his team will have to wait until March 16 to see if they’re selected to compete in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“I think we’re good enough to be in the postseason. I think we’re deserving,” Newbauer said in a release following his team’s defeat. “From a coaching standpoint, I want it so we can keep playing and build for the future...I just hope that we can get that bid for it, just keep playing.”
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