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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Florida falls to Towson in 87-70 in preseason WNIT opener

Aleah Nelson exploded for 39 points against the defensively hapless Gators

Florida guard Kristina Moore led the team in first-half points, but Towson blew the Gators away 87-70.
Florida guard Kristina Moore led the team in first-half points, but Towson blew the Gators away 87-70.

Towson guard Aleah Nelson channeled her inner Stephen Curry Friday against Florida. 

She drilled six 3s and poured in 39 points to knock off the Gators 87-70 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

The Tigers had the hot hand early and jumped out to a double-digit first-quarter lead behind four quick 3-pointers. 

The deficit only grew as Florida continued to struggle on both sides of the court. The Gators missed eight of their first 10 shots as Towson continued to extend the lead. Defensively, Florida consistently allowed uncontested looks on the perimeter, as the Tigers shot seven of eight from deep including Nelson’s five first quarter triples. 

The first quarter closed with the Gators trailing 37-20. Florida strung together enough good possessions offensively to put them on pace for an 80-point performance. Towson, on the other hand, scored 37 in the first, good for a 148-point full game pace.

To get back into the game, Florida needed immediate defensive improvement.

Tighter defense in the second quarter slowed Towson’s offensive onslaught, but the Gators couldn’t trim the deficit to less than 14 points before the first half ended. 

Towson led 55-38 at the break.

Senior guard Kristina Moore led Florida into the locker room with 8 points, while Nelson led all scorers with 24. 

After being outscored by 17 as a team in the first quarter, the Gators kept pace offensively in the second, but still couldn’t reduce Towson’s commanding lead.

Towson’s backcourt pairing of Nelson and Tarriyona Gary combined for nine first-half 3s and 41 total points, outscoring the Gators’ whole team by themselves.

Both teams struggled to score in the second half, to Florida’s detriment. Towson, despite cooling off significantly, held on to a comfortable lead without letting the Gators reach striking distance.

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Florida outscored Towson in the third quarter 20-16, but the score was still 71-58 going into the fourth and final period.

For a moment, Florida looked poised to make a late run in the fourth. The Gators brought the deficit to 11, but a quick Towson three stifled their surge and pushed the lead back to 14, and Towson never looked back.

Three Gators finished the game in double-digits, sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt (18), Moore (12) and senior guard Zippy Broughton (10). Towson’s backcourt of Nelson (39) and Gray (16) overwhelmed Florida by comparison. 

Florida takes the court next against No. 5 North Carolina State on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. to continue their preseason WNIT. The game can be streamed live on ACC Network+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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