Ranked opponents have been kryptonite for Florida’s women’s basketball team this season, with the Gators losing each of its four games against top-25 foes by an average margin of 25.3 points.
Thursday night was a prime opportunity for UF to make a statement against No. 24 Tennessee, but the Volunteers overpowered the Gators en route to a 78-50 victory at the O’Connell Center.
“We want to win those games, and I think we’re getting better at learning how to,” coach Cam Newbauer said after the defeat. “I thought we did a good job of making adjustments and getting better as the game went on.”
Florida’s height, or lack thereof, doomed the team on both ends of the court.
Each player in Tennessee’s starting lineup was 6 foot or taller, while UF only had three.
The Volunteers (14-3, 4-1 SEC) used that to their advantage, especially in the paint, where they scored 40 points to Florida’s 22.
The height difference between both teams was also seen on defense, as Tennessee denied the smaller UF players nine times. Florida, on the other hand, recorded zero blocks.
Florida (11-7, 2-3 SEC) had no answer for Volunteers forward Rennia Davis.
She dropped a game-high 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, which marks the 15th-consecutive game for Davis in double figures.
Davis made her presence felt in the early stages of the game, accounting for eight points in Tennessee’s 13-3 run to close out the first quarter. She added another basket in the opening minutes of the second quarter, too, as the Volunteers scored seven unanswered points to extend their lead to 24-9.
Turnovers and poor shot selection prevented the Gators from mounting a comeback.
Although the Gators (16) only had one more turnover than Tennessee (15), they rarely capitalized in transition. Florida had just nine points off turnovers, while the Volunteers had 27.
UF’s 21-of-63 shooting from the floor, including a 4-of-16 effort from behind the arc, was not out of the ordinary for a team facing Tennessee. Coming into the game, the Volunteers ranked first in the SEC in both scoring defense (54.7 points per game) and opponent field goal percentage (30.6).
Guards Lavender Briggs and Brylee Bartram led the Gators with 11 points apiece, and forward Zada Williams chipped in with nine points to go with her four rebounds.
Coach Cam Newbauer singled out Bartram’s 11-point outing as a bright spot in a rather underwhelming night, considering the freshman had not scored in double figures since her second collegiate game in early November.
“Brylee (Bartram) did a good job keeping her eyes on the rim,” Newbauer said. “She got some good looks on some screens from teammates and just knocked them down when she had the opportunity to knock them down.”
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