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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Florida crushed on road by No. 1 South Carolina

Gators’ second-quarter cold stretch crushes upset dream

Florida guard Nina Rickards drives to the basket in the Gators' 61-54 win against the Texas A&M Aggies Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.
Florida guard Nina Rickards drives to the basket in the Gators' 61-54 win against the Texas A&M Aggies Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.

Florida entered the second quarter trailing by 14 points against the last undefeated team in the country. While the lead looked daunting, the Gators shot 50% from the field and looked lively on both ends of the court in the first quarter.

Any hope of a monumental comeback upset quickly evaporated in the second quarter.

South Carolina outscored Florida 22-6 in the second period to blow the game away and cruise to another dominant victory.

The Florida Gators (14-12, 3-10 SEC) fell to the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (26-0, 12-0 SEC) 87-56 Thursday night. The Gamecocks outrebounded UF 55-27 in the dominant victory. Three Florida forwards fouled out of the game as it battled against South Carolina’s size inside.

Senior guard Nina Rickards led the Gators with 16 points on 6-11 shooting. She also matched a career high with five steals. Freshman guard Myka Perry had one of her best games this season with 10 points on 4-11 shooting.

South Carolina senior guard Zia Cooke scored first. She ran through the teeth of Florida’s defense for a layup on the first possession. Junior Gators center Ra Shaya Kyle scored for Florida, but Cooke and the Gamecocks took over early.

The senior guard missed a pull up jumper, but the Gamecocks snared the rebound and found Cooke again for an open 3-pointer to take an early 7-2 lead. 

South Carolina’s offense was nearly perfect to start the game. It made seven of its first ten shots heading into the first media timeout.

Senior Gamecocks forward Aliyah Boston missed a shot, but one of the nation’s top rebounders secured her own miss and scored the putback. Boston went to work in the post and skipped a pass to senior guard Brea Beal for an open triple.

Kyle scored inside for the Gators again to cut their deficit to 10. South Carolina answered with a pair of quick layups by senior forward Laeticia Amihere and sophomore guard Bree Hall. 

Florida sophomore guard Alberte Rimdal drove into the lane and found freshman guard Myka Perry in the corner. The Norman, Oklahoma, product splashed the triple to cut the deficit to 13. Senior guard KK Deans drove to the basket and made a layup for the Gators late in the period to make the matchup a 14-point game heading into the second quarter.

South Carolina dominated on the interior during the first quarter. The Gamecocks outscored Florida 20-10 in the paint and dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Gators 13-4 in the first ten minutes of action.

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Deans got Florida on the board to start the second quarter. She got to the hoop again and beat her defender for a layup. South Carolina continued to score at will, though, and Cooke drilled a pair of triples to give the Gamecocks a 21-point lead.

The Gators’ offense dried up in the second period. Florida went more than six and a half minutes without a basket. UF missed 12 straight shots before senior guard Nina Rickards made a layup to finally end the drought.

South Carolina led by 30 points at halftime. The Gamecocks shot 58% from the field in the first half — including 6-10 from 3-point range — and had twice as many points in the paint and rebounds as the Gators.

Florida started strong in the second half. Senior guard Leilani Correa and senior forward Faith Dut both hit 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the third quarter. 

The Gators’ strong shooting cooled down again, but so did South Carolina’s. Florida held the Gamecocks without a field goal for more than three minutes midway through the third quarter. Perry made another triple to make it a 28-point game heading into a media timeout.

South Carolina quickly rattled off a 9-0 run to push its lead up to 37. Rimdal and Rickards each hit late 3-pointers to cut the lead to 33 heading into the final quarter of play.

Rickards opened the fourth quarter with a hard drive to the paint, and she drew a foul. The senior from Queens, New York, made both of her free throws. She scored again for the Gators when she hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow. 

The senior dished the ball to Rimdal, who hit a three pointer, then Rickards made an open layup in transition to cut the lead to less than 30 points.

Florida’s strong start to the fourth quarter fizzled toward the end of the game. The Gators went scoreless for more than two minutes, but a heavily rotated South Carolina team slowed down on offense. Florida outscored the Gamecocks 17-15 in the final period, but the home team rolled to a 31-point victory.

Florida returns to Gainesville Sunday to face another top-five opponent: the Louisiana State Tigers. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.

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