Less than 10 seconds remained on the clock, but the Florida Gators still had a final chance to secure a massive upset win. UF battled the No. 12 Florida State Seminoles for four quarters of basketball but trailed by three with 9.8 on the clock.
Junior guard Alberte Rimdal stood on the sideline to inbound the final possession, but she wouldn’t get a chance. The Seminoles swarmed the Gators off the ball, and senior guard Aliyah Matharu was whistled for a foul that ended any last chance for Florida.
The Florida Gators (3-1) fell to the No. 12 Florida State Seminoles (3-0) 79-75 Friday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Matharu, junior center Ra Shaya Kyle and senior guard Leilani Correa all scored at least 15 points in the loss.
“This loss is only going to make us that much better,” said UF head coach Kelly Rae Finley post game. “I think we got a tremendous season ahead of us.”
Kyle sealed off her defender and scored inside for the Gators after FSU guard Ta’Niya Latson opened the game with a pair of free throws. Latson splashed a triple to extend the visitors’ lead to 9-2 after a cagey start to the game.
Florida’s offense struggled to find rhythm early in the first quarter. The Gators started 2-6 from the field with four turnovers before head coach Kelly Rae Finley called timeout with 5:16 in the period.
UF turned back to Kyle in the paint out of the break, and the junior center scored her second basket in the paint. Freshman guard Laila Reynolds hit Florida’s first 3-pointer of the night to cut the lead to 14-9. A layup from Rimdal made it a three-point game.
Rimdal hit a long 2-pointer to make it 18-14 Seminoles late in the quarter. Matharu sized up her defender and stepped back for a triple to make it a 21-17 game with 1:19 to play in the first. FSU took a 23-21 lead into the second period.
“We knew their best punch was going to be their first punch,” Finley said. “I was extremely impressed with our ability to make the adjustment early.”
Florida State guard O’Mariah Gordon slithered through the Gators’ defense and finished with a soft layup to open the scoring in the second. Matharu cut through the paint before dishing it off to Kyle at the last moment to make it 29-25.
Florida’s offense started to stall, and the Seminoles pushed the lead back to eight points before a media timeout. Junior guard Jeriah Warren dribbled to the heart of the paint for a floater right out of the stoppage.
Matharu ripped through the defense for a wide-open layup to cut the lead down to four. Senior forward Faith Dut stuffed a shot on the other end and gave the ball back to the Gators. Florida continued to force stops, and Correa finally broke through offensively to make it 35-33.
Florida’s defense continued to shut down the Seminoles, and Matharu sidestepped a defender before unloading another triple to give the Gators their first lead of the night, 36-35. UF held FSU to just 31.7% from the field in the first half.
Matharu continued to thrive with the ball in her hands in the third quarter. She opened the period with a quick dribble move to the basket and a finish inside. Kyle scored another easy basket inside to get the Gators off to a hot start.
Florida State guard Sara Bejedi re-tied the game at 42 with a pair of free throws. Warren put UF back on top turnaround jump shot and added a free throw for the and-one. Rimdal sank a triple to push Florida’s lead to six points.
Correa worked into the heart of the paint for a soft floater to push the lead back to five after a brief run from the Seminoles. Dut battled for an offensive rebound and finished the second-chance opportunity to give UF a seven-point advantage.
Warren stole the ball, and Correa finished on the other end to maintain Florida’s seven-point lead. Another defensive stop from the Gators kept them in front 56-49
Kyle went down after a heavy collision with FSU forward Sakyia White in the paint early in the fourth quarter. She returned later in the quarter, however.
Latson dropped in a layup to cut the lead to five, but Correa immediately answered with a 3-pointer. Latson dished a pass to forward Mikayla Timpson, and she finished at the cup to make it a three-point game. Latson scored another layup off a turnover to cut the lead to one.
Matharu broke the Seminoles’ run with a tough finish inside but missed the and-one opportunity. She made up for her miss at the charity stripe with a triple to push Florida’s lead back to six. Latson scored two from the line to make it a one-point game with less than five minutes to play.
Rimdal answered with a jump shot on the other end. Matharu nearly turned the ball over, but she fought for the loose ball and dished it to Kyle for a wide-open jumper to keep the lead at three.
Gordon finally tied the game for the Seminoles with a 3-pointer, and Latson retook the lead with a quick layup. Florida turned to Kyle down low, but the Purdue transfer couldn’t secure the pass down low and turned the ball over.
Gordon went to the free throw line to make it a two-possession lead, but she missed both attempts. The Seminoles fouled Kyle on the rebound, and the Gators’ center had a chance to amend for her turnover. She split her attempts, and FSU led by one.
Latson scored another layup, but Matharu found Kyle inside for another layup. Two more free throws from Latson gave FSU a three-point lead with 15.8 seconds to play. The Gators opted for a quick two instead of a tying three, and Kyle split a pair of free throws.
UF’s error on the inbounds pass with less than 10 seconds to play all but ended the game, and Latton added two more free throws to cap off a 35-point performance in the win.
The Gators will travel to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship. Florida will face the Purdue Boilermakers Monday at 4 p.m. and the Columbia Lions at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Both games will be streamed on FloHoops.
Contact Topher Adams at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @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.