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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Florida fails to keep up with Oklahoma in Jumpman Invitational

Gators commit 22 turnovers in blowout loss to Sooners

<p>Florida guard KK Deans dribbles the ball down the court in the Gators&#x27; victory over Bethune-Cookman Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.</p>

Florida guard KK Deans dribbles the ball down the court in the Gators' victory over Bethune-Cookman Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.

Senior guard KK Deans’ season-high 28 points and junior center Ra Shaya Kyle’s fifth career double-double weren’t enough for Florida to leave the Queen City with a victory. 

Florida lost, 95-79, in the final game of the Jumpman Invitational Wednesday night against the No. 23 Oklahoma Sooners. The Gators were without senior guard Leilani Correa — who leads the team with 16 points per game — and struggled offensively much of the night. 

Florida fell behind quickly to start the game. Oklahoma came out firing and earned a 7-0 lead. Redshirt senior forward Madi Williams grabbed two early steals to put the Gators under early pressure. 

Senior guard Nina Rickards opened the scoring for Florida with a mid-range jumper from the baseline. However, redshirt senior guard Taylor Robertson hit two three-pointers to extend the Sooners’ lead to double-digits.

After a missed 3-pointer from Oklahoma, the Gators pushed in transition. Kyle finished at the rim and completed a three-point play from the free throw line to cut the Sooner lead to nine.

The Gators struggled on the offensive end early. They turned the ball over seven times and made just three of 14 shots in the first quarter. OU dominated the glass in the opening period, racking up eight offensive rebounds to extend its possessions.

Florida started the second quarter with a quick bucket from sophomore forward Tatyana Wyche, but the Sooners soon swung momentum back in their favor. A mix of frenetic defense and elite shooting led to a 10-0 OU run to give Oklahoma a 20-point advantage after two more Robertson triples.

Following more offensive struggles and hot shooting from the Sooners, Deans found herself with acres of space at the top of the key. She dropped in the Gators’ first three-point basket of the night to bring her team within 21 points.

Deans hit another three before the half, but Florida’s offensive woes continued through the second quarter.It shot just 4-14 in the second quarter. Oklahoma continued to execute on the offensive end and went to the locker room with a 20-point lead.

The start of the third quarter was more of the same. Redshirt senior guard Ana Llanusa scored a quick layup off a backdoor cut and Williams and Robertson connected on triples to spark a quick 8-1 run for Oklahoma. 

Florida slowly found some offensive rhythm to try to battle back into the game. Rickards scored on a contested layup, converted the three-point play and added a 3-pointer shortly thereafter. 

Despite the brief flash of life for the Gators’ offense, the Sooners continued to score at the other end and kept their healthy lead. 

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With under six minutes in the third quarter, Florida finally found its run to start to close the gap. Led by Rickards and Kyle, the Gators hit six straight baskets to spark a 14-3 run late in the quarter and cut the deficit to 15.

Oklahoma quickly swung momentum back in its favor, though. It scored on three straight possessions for a 6-0 run to push the lead back to 21 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Deans caught fire from beyond the arc in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Florida continued to score and finally put together stops against the Sooner’s high-octane offense.

The Gators battled back to cut the lead to 14 with under six minutes left in the game. Florida started its full-court press to speed up the game, but it couldn’t string together enough stops to impact the end result.

Deans continued to fill up the box score, however. She finished the game with a season-high 28 points with seven made 3-pointers.

The Gators will begin conference play next week when they host the Tennessee Volunteers in Gainesville Dec. 29. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network Plus.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.

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