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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Florida suffers second loss of the season behind fourth- quarter offensive struggles

UF shot 35.7% in the fourth quarter Saturday against Marshall

Florida guard Leilani Correa scans the court in the Gators' 92-54 win against the Florida A&M Rattlers on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.
Florida guard Leilani Correa scans the court in the Gators' 92-54 win against the Florida A&M Rattlers on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

Herd senior guard Breanna Campell approached the free throw line with seconds remaining in the game. The oxygen in the Florida lead began to dwindle even further away, with little chance available for the Gators to respond.

In a game where UF held a game-high 11-point lead, Florida saw it slip away slowly.

The Florida Gators (6-2) suffered their second loss of the season to the Marshall Thundering Herd (3-4) 91-88 at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, West Virginia, Saturday. Despite Gators senior guards Leilani Correa and Aliyah Matharu combining for 50 points, UF struggled to answer back to a 10-0 three-minute Marshall run to end the game.

Besides a 3-point shot by Correa, the Gators worked down low below the basket early to open the game. Half of UF’s first six shots all came from the painted area.

The Herd’s defense held Florida scoreless for four straight possessions into the seven-minute mark of the first quarter. A layup in transition by Gators freshman guard Laila Reynolds broke the spell and put UF up 9-7 half-a-minute later.

Florida struggled to guard beyond the perimeter against Marshall. The lack of defense from deep allowed the Herd to go on a 6-0 run and jump to a four-point lead. However, UF erupted on offense and responded with a 12-1 two-minute run, which saw Correa score seven consecutive points.

A fastbreak layup by the six-foot guard gave UF a 21-15 lead with three minutes before the end of the first. Correa finished the quarter with 10 points and shot 50% from the field.

Marshall found offense only from the charity stripe to end the quarter while the Gators drilled four of their last five attempts from the floor. The Herd shot 1-8 to close out the quarter and trailed 27-21 at the end of the first.

Both sides scored in the low post in the first minute of the second quarter. Florida found success on offense with transition 3-pointers — all in the corners of the court. Back-to-back triples by UF extended the Gators’ lead, 35-24, to double digits with more than seven minutes left before the break.

The Herd brought its intensity up on the defensive end and held Florida scoreless from the floor in the two-and-a-half minutes that followed after the Gators took an 11-point lead. 

Marshall redshirt senior Mahogany Matthews scored a contested layup in the paint to close the deficit within six, and Florida took a 37-31 lead with four minutes left in the half into a media timeout.

Florida went back into the action in a 2-3 zone with an attacking mindset on offense. Both teams traded punches until the Herd met UF players at the rim with excellent post-defense.

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The Gators went scoreless for almost the entire last three minutes of the half. Marshall nearly tied the game when sophomore guard Sydni Scott converted a fastbreak layup while Correa fouled her in the last 33 seconds of the half.

Scott didn’t complete the free throw shot after, and a layup by UF senior forward Faith Dut gave Florida a tight 43-40 lead at halftime.

Florida, which shot 50% from the floor in the first quarter, shot 31.6% and only produced 16 points in the second.

Herd junior guard Aislynn Hayes hit a contested layup in stride to open the second half and followed the points with more at the free throw line the very next possession to put Marshall up 44-43 through the first seconds of the quarter.

The game tied four times in the first two minutes of the third quarter until Dut took control and changed the game's momentum with five consecutive points via a layup and a smooth jumper.

The Gators made six of their last seven shots from the floor since the Dut run. A layup in transition by Matharu brought Florida back to a double-digit lead, up 61-51 midway through the quarter.

UF shot 66.7% from the floor to open the first 15 minutes of the second half. A media timeout gave Herd head coach Kim Caldwell a break with five minutes left in the third to talk to her team, who was on a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought.

Opportunities for Marshall after the break were scarce. The Gators’ forwards clobbered anyone who attempted to challenge them inside and kept the Herd’s dry spell from the floor past four minutes.

Marshall only found salvation at the line. Eleven of Marshall’s 23 points in the quarter came from the free throw line.

Ball movement from the Gators continued to roll through the Herds pressure defense. UF senior center Ra Shaya Kyle served a cutting Matharu with a fastball assist for an easy layup. The basket gave Florida a 67-58 lead with three minutes left in the quarter.

Marshall did clean up its lack of offense with five points from the floor in the last two minutes of the third, but Florida matched each basket with its own. The Gators shot 62.5% to end the quarter, up 72-63.

The first two minutes of the fourth quarter was all Marshall. The Herd forced three turnovers and went 3-for-3 in their opening shots of the quarter. A bad pass by UF senior guard Zippy Broughton resulted in a 3-pointer by Marshall graduate student guard Abby Beeman to give the Herd a 72-71 lead, its first lead of the half, with less than eight minutes left in the game.

Matharu turned into a three-level scorer to bring Florida back with a 3-pointer and a pullup jump shot that went unanswered to bring the Gators back up by six, 77-71.

Despite the Herd’s newfound success beyond the perimeter, UF held its lead through the last five minutes of the game due to fouls slowing the pace of the game for both teams.

The Herd broke the trend with four unanswered points with baskets in transition. On a two-on-one in transition, Beeman fed Marshall sophomore guard CC Mays for a layup. The Gators took a timeout with less than three minutes remaining. UF led 88-85.

After a trip to the line by Campell off a Correa shooting foul, Florida led by 88-87 with two minutes left in the game.

Marshall’s defense was skin-tight to end the contest. The pressure forced bad shot selections for the Gators.

Matharu committed her fifth foul of the afternoon on a Campell 3-point attempt with a minute left. The senior made two of her three attempts — giving Marshall an 89-88 lead.

UF continued to struggle on offense and never came back into the game. Marshall held its lead and defeated Florida 91-88.

The Gators ended the game on a three-and-a-half scoring drought while the Herd went on a 10-0 run. Six of Marshall’s 10 points to end the game came from the charity stripe.

Florida will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a matchup against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Contact Brandon Hernandez at Follow him on X @BranH2001

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Brandon Hernandez

Brandon Hernandez is currently the enterprise sports writer and sports podcast host for The Independent Alligator. He likes long walks on the sidewalk and watching basketball tape in his off time. You can find most of his work @BranH2001 on X and on The Courtside Podcast on Spotify.

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