Senior Zippy Broughton controlled the ball to start the third quarter for the Gators. With a decisive crossover, she left her defender on their heels and pulled up for an open jumper.
The ball danced on every side of the rim before empathetically rolling off into the waiting hands of a South Carolina defender.
The Gators (15-6, 5-3) knew this feeling all too well, as they lost to No. 1 South Carolina (19-1, 8-1) 62-50 Sunday afternoon, due in large part to abysmal shooting in the first half.
After the game, interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley said her team executed well on defense, but had a challenging time getting their shots to fall.
“I think that felt like there was a lid on the basket there,” Finley said. “A lot of those shots maybe were a little bit more wide open than we had anticipated.”
The Gators played against the top team in the country in front of 5,319 people, the largest crowd since a Pat Summit-led Tennessee team came to Gainesville in January of 1999 and drew a crowd of 5,031.
Despite a lively crowd buzzing with energy, Florida struggled to connect on their shots from the field in the first half of play, only making four shots on 30 attempts.
The Gators were outrebounded by the Gamecocks 56-28, as Florida had no answer for the quick hands of forward Aliyah Boston. The junior snatched seven rebounds in the first five minutes of the game and finished with a double-double of 13 points and 19 rebounds.
After a quiet first quarter, UF sophomore Jordyn Merritt entered the second looking to score. Merritt tallied four points and six rebounds going into the third and ended the game with eight points and seven rebounds.
Finley said after the games that Merritt’s presence was felt beyond the stats sheet, as she did the little things to help her team stay in the game.
“She did a tremendous job of guarding their forwards and then helping down on Boston,” Finley said. “Getting in there even if she didn't come up with the rebound.”
Florida pulled themselves back in the game because of a very active second half. The Gators went 9-17 from the field and gave up only two turnovers in the third quarter. At the start of the fourth, graduate senior Kiara Smith connected on open jumpers and finished tough layups through contact. Smith and freshman Jeriah Warren helped cut the Gamecocks lead to as little as 13.
South Carolina had its own struggles scoring the basket in the final 10 minutes but were able to compensate for the deficiencies by going 7-12 from the charity stripe to ice the Gators. Smith scored a team-high 19 points and Warren put up a solid five points in the contest.
Florida steps back onto the court inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Feb. 3. The game will tipoff at 6 p.m. and can be streamed on SEC Network+.
Contact Brenda Bogle at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bogle_brenda.
Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.