Despite being up by 29 points, Florida’s guards still played full-court press in the fourth quarter. The Gators’ unrelenting tenacity on defense forced Furman into tough situations all night, forcing 24 total turnovers.
“We played together today,” said Florida sophomore Alberte Rimdal. “We played with a lot of intensity on the defensive end.”
Florida Gators women’s basketball took on the Furman Paladins in their fourth home game of the season Monday night and came out with a decisive victory, 77-50. UF still remains undefeated inside the Stephen C. O’Connell center so far this season.
The Gators won the tipoff and senior Nina Rickards found the ball to kick off the game. Florida’s first shot bounced off the back rim after senior KK Deans launched from behind the arc.
Furman started the game without missing a beat. The Paladins connected on their first five attempts to build an early 6-11 lead.
In that time, Rimdal kept the Gators close. Despite shooting 16.7% from three this season entering the game, she made her first two attempts from long distance, accounting for Florida’s opening points.
After getting out to an early five-point lead, the Paladins offense plateaued and the Gators stole the away team’s early momentum. Furman went scoreless for the remaining 6:48 of the first quarter.
Florida, on the other hand, scored 14 unanswered points. Senior Leilani Correa accounted for eight points during the Gators’ run, and Florida held a 20-11 lead as the first quarter came to a close.
Both teams came out slow as the second quarter began. The first bucket of the quarter came on a converted 3-point play by Furman redshirt freshman Jaelyn Acker.
Correa and Rimdal further distanced Florida from Furman and made UF’s next four baskets. Rimdal knocked down a 3-pointer; Correa hit a long jumper; Rimdal connected for her fourth triple on five looks; Correa scored on a fast break.
The players’ efforts saw Florida leading 30-14. The Gators scored two more times, and the Paladins saw one more shot fall before half. The scoreboard read 34-17 at the break.
Correa and Rimdal combined for 24 points as Florida doubled Furman’s score halfway through the game. They made six of their eight 3-pointers alone, helping the Gators connect on 50% of their twelve shots from behind the arc. The Paladins only made two 3-pointers on eight attempts.
Florida was active on defense in the first half and took advantage of these opportunities, scoring 13 points on 13 takeaways. Furman forced eight turnovers, but it couldn’t capitalize on any of them.
Florida spread the ball around and had eight assists, compared to Furman’s three. The Gators had 18 bench points, while the Paladins second unit failed to register a point.
Rimdal stayed aggressive and put the Gators on the scoreboard first in the second half. She was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all of her free throws.
As the third quarter progressed, Florida utilized its same strategy from the first half. The Gators’ stayed attached at the hip to every Furman player from baseline to baseline.
After sophomore Janay Outten made Furman’s first field goal of the half 35 seconds in, the team struggled to make shots not taken from the charity stripe. The Paladins’ next field goal came from Outten again, this time with 2:22 left in the period.
Furman only scored four more points between Outten’s shots, while Florida scored 21 in the same span. After a layup by UF junior Ra Shaya Kyle and six points for the Paladins, the third quarter ended and Florida led, 55-31.
Deans came into the fourth quarter playing like the Gators didn’t have a 24-point lead. She hit a 3-pointer to open the quarter and stole the ball, finding Correa for a fast-break layup. Not even a minute into the fourth, Deans stretched the Gators’ lead to 29 points, 60-31.
Florida’s defense wasn’t as stifling in the fourth quarter, but it stayed aggressive in the period. Kyle had six points, and the Gators outscored the Paladins 22-19 in the quarter to seal their dominant victory.
The Gators shot well from behind the arc all game but especially early on. Florida was 10-26 from 3-point range, with Rimdal making four of her eight 3-pointers and Correa connecting on three of her six. UF head coach Kelly Rae Finley said she has faith in all her players’ abilities.
“They all have the green light,” Finley said.
Rimdal led the team in scoring with 19 points — Correa had 17 and Rickards put up 15 — and Finley said Rimdal played well, but she didn’t think she played any different from the season’s previous games. Rimdal was plus-26 against the Paladins, but she was still plus-21 against Bethune-Cookman when she only scored seven points.
Florida’s defense tallied eight blocks from eight different players and 16 steals. Rickards led the team with five steals, and Correa and Rimdal followed close behind with four and three respectively.
The Paladins only made 25% of their shots from the field and had the same percentage from 3-point range.
Finley said the defense played unselfishly, recognizing any points allowed were on the team, not one individual. One of the team’s focal points, Rimdal added, was putting Furman’s guards in uncomfortable situations.
“When they’re pressured, it’s easier to get deflections and steals,” Rimdal said.
The depth of the roster was key to their defensive success, Finley said. There are multiple players at each position that can step in and make a play, she said.
Florida plays Green Bay Thursday and Houston Saturday, giving the Gators back-to-back weeks in which they will play three games. The stretch is difficult, Finley said, and not many teams can do it, but Florida’s depth will help them prevail through this span.
“We’re going to be better because of this stretch,” Finley said.
The Gators play the 2-1 Green Bay Phoenix at 3 p.m. Thursday in its first game of the St. Pete Showcase. The game will stream on FloHoops.
Kyle Bumpers is a fourth-year journalism major with a specialization in sports and media. He is the Gators men's tennis beat reporter for The Alligator. When off the clock, he watches too many movies and writes too many Letterboxd reviews.