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Friday, September 29, 2023

Florida wins regular season finale behind Correa’s career day

Senior guard Leilani Correa grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds

<p>Florida guard Leilani Correa shoots the ball in the Gators&#x27; 61-54 win against the Texas A&amp;M Aggies Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.</p>

Florida guard Leilani Correa shoots the ball in the Gators' 61-54 win against the Texas A&M Aggies Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.

Senior guard Leilani Correa received a pass at the free-throw line. The St. John’s transfer rose and hit an open mid-range jump shot to give Florida a nine-point advantage.

The shot capped off a career day for Correa and helped the Gators secure a victory in their regular-season finale. The Florida Gators (16-13, 5-11 SEC) defeated the Missouri Tigers (17-12, 6-10 SEC) 61-52 Sunday afternoon. UF shot just 31% from the field but forced 14 turnovers and held the Tigers to 34% from the field to win the game.

Correa led the way for Florida. The Manchester, New Jersey, product scored 17 points, grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and dished a season-high five assists.

Senior guard KK Deans — fresh off of a 22-point performance Thursday — opened the scoring with an early 3-pointer. Sophomore guard Alberte Rimdal turned the ball over as she drove to the hoop, and Missouri senior guard Lauren Hansen hit a triple to tie the game at five.

Correa gave Florida a 9-6 advantage with a corner triple. The Gators forced a turnover on an inbounds pass, but Deans failed to convert the long mid-range jumper. Hansen cut hard to the basket and tied the game at nine.

Senior forward Hayley Frank drilled a transition triple to give Missouri its first lead of the game. Franks worked in the post and skipped a pass to freshman guard Ashton Judd in the corner for another 3-pointer.

Judd muscled around Florida senior forward Faith Dut for a layup to cap off an 11-0 run for the Tigers. Correa battled in the post for an offensive rebound and drew a foul. The senior hit both free throws to stop the run.

Junior Gators center Ra Shaya Kyle swatted a layup attempt late in the first quarter. Florida allowed an offensive rebound but stayed compact and forced a shot-clock violation. UF ended the quarter without a field goal in its last six minutes and 17 seconds of play.

The Gators forced another shot-clock violation to start the second quarter. Correa hit her second triple of the day to end the field goal drought and cut the deficit to three. 

Freshman guard Myka Perry took the ball in transition, euro stepped into the paint and finished a floater through a foul. Perry converted the free throw to tie the game at 17. Senior guard Nina Rickards drove down the baseline for a layup to even the score at 19 after a Missouri jumper.

Correa hit another triple in the corner — her third of the first half — and restored Florida’s lead. Rimdal drilled a 3-pointer from the high wing to give the Gators a four-point advantage with less than two minutes left in the half.

Sophomore guard Jeriah Warren picked off a Missouri pass at the top of the key. With the clock ticking down, she found Correa streaking to the basket, and the senior made a layup as time expired.

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Florida outscored the Tigers 19-6 in the second quarter. The Gators forced nine turnovers in the first half and made enough shots to take advantage of their strong defensive showing.

Kyle got the offense started for Florida in the third quarter. The junior center received a pass on the low-block, rebounded her own miss and scored the putback. Rickards snagged an offensive rebound and drew a foul. She hit both free throws to give the Gators a nine-point lead.

Florida pushed its lead into double digits for the first time when Kyle made another layup. The Gators went more than two minutes without scoring, and the Tigers cut the lead back down to seven.

Deans took the ball with the shot clock running out. The senior guard stepped back and sank a contested triple to take a 10-point lead. Frank scored a contested fadeaway jump shot to cut the lead to six.

Deans hit a 3-pointer from just inside the midcourt logo to end the period.

Missouri graduate student guard Katlyn Gilbert attacked the basket aggressively to start the fourth quarter. Gilbert drew a pair of fouls and made three of four shots from the charity stripe to make it a six-point game.

Rimdal splashed a corner triple to push Florida’s lead back to 10. Graduate student Tigers guard Hailey Troup worked in the post, scored and drew a foul. She converted the three-point play.

Florida took a game-high 12-point lead when Rimdal hit her third triple of the game. Missouri went into a full-court press to get back into the game, but the Gators took care of business to seal the win. 

Florida will participate in the Southeastern Conference tournament starting Wednesday. The Gators will open the tournament either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the final conference standings.

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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