In college basketball, one week is a long time.
Florida dropped a heartbreaker to Georgia (13-11, 4-7 SEC) by a score of 49-43 despite coming off of its biggest win of the year last week against Kentucky. It was Florida’s second-lowest scoring total of the season on Saturday at the O’Connell Center. Foul trouble, lack of shooting and turnovers did the Gators in.
Three things above all else cost UF (12-11, 3-7 SEC) in this one: turnovers, poor scoring efforts from guards Lavender Briggs and Kiara Smith and foul trouble for forward Zada Williams.
Briggs and Smith finished the game combining for just 10 points despite averaging a combined 26.7 points per game heading into this matchup. And it was not for lack of trying, as Briggs took 14 shots while Smith took 10.
They simply weren’t falling.
Smith hit one field goal all day, a transition layup off of a steal late in the fourth quarter. Briggs made just three of her attempts to finish the game at just 21-percent shooting.
“I do think at times they forced some tougher shots than they had at first,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “That’s what you can do when you press a little bit, those are two players that we rely on a lot to do a lot.”
Turnovers were also a killer for Newbauer’s team all day. Florida turned the ball over 20 times, just five more than UGA’s 15, but it was the untimeliness of them. In the midst of a comeback attempt, UF turned it over twice in the final few minutes, making its degree of difficulty to claw back into the game much harder.
But above all else, the Achilles’ heel of the day for Florida was Williams getting her fourth foul. The redshirt senior was having an effective game scoring the basketball, accounting for 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. But in the middle of the third quarter, she picked up her fourth foul. Newbauer was forced to bench her until midway through the fourth, and that stretch cost the Gators.
“We probably waited too long to put her in,” Newbauer said. “By the time we put her back in we were down eight.”
Williams, along with the rest of UF’s forwards, had an incredibly tough assignment all day defending Georgia forward Jenna Staiti. The 6-foot-4 transfer from Maryland was a force for the Bulldogs all game, scoring 19 points on 50-percent shooting. She was the main reason for Williams’ foul issues.
“(Staiti’s) really strong and she posts really deep,” Williams said. “She kind of puts you in a position where it’s like, ‘Either I get really aggressive or just let her score.’”
Florida’s three downfalls, along with Staiti’s standout performance, were the main culprits for UGA’s six-point victory. UF’s program-building victory over then-No. 13 Kentucky last Sunday now feels like a distant memory.
“I thought that we had gotten over the hump with our toughness,” Newbauer said. “That third and fourth quarter was just strange, our energy was just strange, man.”
Follow Graham on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF and contact him at [email protected].