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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Gators lose first road SEC matchup of 2024 against Vanderbilt

Neither team led by more than six points in the second half

Head coach Kelly Rae Finley coaches senior guard Aliyah Matharu during the Gators' 82-65 win against the UNF Ospreys on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023.
Head coach Kelly Rae Finley coaches senior guard Aliyah Matharu during the Gators' 82-65 win against the UNF Ospreys on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023.

After a blowout loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in their Southeastern Conference opener, the Florida Gators women’s basketball team fared much better in their second conference matchup of the season. Nevertheless, they have yet to secure their first SEC win of 2024. 

The Florida Gators (9-5, 0-2 SEC) came up short against the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-1, 2-0 SEC) in a 63-57 loss Sunday afternoon. The game remained hotly contested up until the final minute of play when the Commodores pulled away with clutch free throws and a pair of untimely turnovers for the Gators.

UF’s unforced errors proved to be their undoing in Sunday’s game. The Gators committed 24 turnovers and 23 fouls in the afternoon. Senior forward Faith Dut and senior guard Aliyah Matharu fouled out before the game’s conclusion, while junior forward Eriny Kindred and senior guard Leilani Correa each picked up four fouls of their own, leaving the team in serious foul trouble for most of the second half.

Correa led the team in scoring off of the bench once again, tallying up 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting from the field. The rest of the team could not keep up with Correa offensively, shooting a combined 39% from the field. 

Matharu did manage to crack double digits in the scoring column, but her offensive woes from the South Carolina game seemingly carried over to Sunday afternoon’s matchup with Vanderbilt. She finished the day with 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.

For the Commodores, senior guard Jordyn Cambridge and junior guard Iyana Moore combined for 44 of the team’s 63 points. While the rest of Vanderbilt’s offense struggled to garner any momentum, the backcourt dynamic duo of Cambridge and Moore was more than enough to power the team to victory.

Florida got off to a strong start early in the afternoon, eventually taking a 19-11 lead to finish off the first quarter. However, the Commodores immediately responded with a 9-1 run midway through the second quarter to even the score. Soon after this, both squads fizzled out offensively, resulting in a stalemate that saw the first half end with the score tied at 26-26. 

At first, the third quarter proved to be more of the same, with the two teams combining for just four points in the first three minutes of play. The Commodores eventually broke through to take a 39-33 lead midway through the quarter, but the Gators stormed right back and responded with a 12-3 run of their own to reclaim the lead by the end of the quarter.

Entering the final quarter up 45-42, the game had suddenly become Florida’s to lose. At first, the Gators managed to fend off the Commodores, but they could not hold on to their lead. After multiple ties and lead changes throughout the quarter, Cambridge nailed a 3-pointer to give Vanderbilt a 56-55 lead. From there, Florida never managed to recover.

The Gators subsequently committed six turnovers in the final three minutes of play, giving the Commodores a golden opportunity to extend their lead for good. Vanderbilt went on to knock down seven free throws in that span to all but cement their victory. 

Florida will return to the hardwood Thursday in a road matchup with the 9-5 Tennessee Volunteers. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Jack Meyer at jmeyer@alligator.org. Follow him on X @jackmeyerUF.

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Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In his free time, he enjoys running, spending time with friends, playing video games, and watching the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins.


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