Kiara Smith

Florida guard Kiara Smith led the team with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting during UF's 71-40 loss to South Carolina on Thursday.

 

The South Carolina Gamecocks led from tip-off to the final whistle at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday night. They handed the Florida women’s basketball team its third-straight SEC loss and seventh-consecutive road defeat, winning 71-40.

Here are three observations as to why UF remained winless in the SEC after Thursday’s matchup:

Defensive Breakdown

Florida (4-12, 0-3 SEC) entered the conference matchup on a two-game streak where it went into halftime with the lead. That streak was snapped thanks to a 22-2 South Carolina run to start the game, and the Gators went into intermission down 37-23.

The No. 21 Gamecocks (11-4, 3-0 SEC), which made just 10 percent of their three-pointers in their previous two games, notched 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc during the early run and eight total three-pointers for the game. UF coach Cam Newbauer dared South Carolina to beat his team with deep shots, and it backfired.

“They made their shots, and we didn’t,” coach Cam Newbauer said after the game. “You won’t win many games when that happens.”

South Carolina went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter to put the game away, this time with physical drives to the basket through the wide-open middle of Florida’s zone defense. Newbauer’s inability — or unwillingness — to adjust his defensive scheme dug the Gators into a bigger hole.

Rebounding

As if the Gamecocks’ offense needed any help, the Gators’ failure to box out effectively only added to the already numerous issues they faced.

South Carolina outrebounded UF 45-31 during the game, including 16 offensive rebounds leading to 17 second-chance points. The Gamecocks were simply more physical in the paint than the undersized Florida forwards, especially 6-foot-1 Kristina Moore, who found herself on her back several times and looked more frustrated each time she was thrown to the hardwood.

UF will need to prioritize rebounding before its next game on Sunday against Missouri.

Offensive disappearances

Florida’s two leading scorers, guards Funda Nakkasoglu and Delicia Washington, struggled all evening. The duo combined for 13 points on a dreadful 5-of-21 shooting night to encapsulate a game that Florida will look to forget as soon as possible.

Guard Kiara Smith was the lone bright spot for Florida with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. With her fifth game with double-digit points, Smith will be expected to shoot a higher volume of shots going forward.

“She played excellent,” Newbauer said. “With some of the others on the offense struggling, she really stepped up. We’re excited for this Sunday’s game, and hopefully, she can keep it going.”

Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him [email protected]

Dylan is a third-year journalism major. He is currently the sports reporter for the University of Florida volleyball team and women's basketball team.