Redshirt senior Funda Nakkasoglu already had 22 points on the day and had made at least half of her shots from three-point range. A pass from Delicia Washington put the ball in the right hands for the Florida women’s basketball team down by two with just a few seconds left.
Nakkasoglu had an open look from way outside the three-point line. But her potential game-winning shot rattled off the rim as time expired and Florida was upset at the O’Connell Center by Gardner-Webb 60-58 to open the season.
It was a disappointing way to embark on a new season for the Gators, who look to improve on last year’s 11-19 record. Gardner-Webb, with a new coach and just three returning players, was down 58-53 with 1:35 left in the game before going on a uninterrupted seven-point run run to finish it off.
“They outplayed us in a number of areas,” second-year Gators coach Cam Newbauer said in a release. “I know we have a group that’s going to take this loss, learn from it, and come back ready to go on Thursday and get better.”
Three Florida players combined for 48 of the team’s 58 points in the game. The guard duo of Nakkasoglu and Washington led the way offensively, scoring 22 and 14, respectively. In her first game as a Gator, forward Zada Williams picked up 12 points of her own to go along with 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“Funda and I have been through this and we have been in this role before, so we just have to teach the newcomers the role that Coach Cam wants us to play,” Washington said in a release. “We have to show them what it takes to be in the SEC and play at the next level.”
It was a back-and-forth contest, with 12 lead changes. UF took the early advantage, leading 17-9 after the first quarter and carrying a 31-29 lead into halftime. Led by twins Savannah and Carley Plentovich, who combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds, the Runnin' Bulldogs were able to flip the script in the second half.
The loss to Gardner-Webb was UF’s first defeat on opening day since 2015. The Gators will have a few days off before heading up to Tallahassee to take on FSU on Sunday.
“It’s frustrating and nobody likes to lose,” Newbauer said, “but it’s part of the game so we’ll take it and learn from it.”
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano or contact him at [email protected].