Florida was down 17 early in the third quarter in Athens, Georgia, looking for anything to shift the momentum. An easy rebound floated up for UF, and a sea of Gator hands reached up for the ball. But the big paws of Georgia forward Caliya Robinson soared above them all to snatch the rebound and make the easy put-back.
Florida guard Delicia Washington had been there before.
Coach Cam Newbauer sat wide-eyed in disbelief, feebly clapping his hands and trying to urge his players to overcome the impossible.
The Bulldogs led the whole way in Sunday’s game, handing Florida its 11th consecutive road loss, 93-58.
The Gators knew that in order to stay in the contest, they had to stop Robinson, who came into the matchup as Georgia’s leading scorer with 13.8 points per game. But even with UF keying on her, the senior forward dominated anyway.
Robinson started the game with a 5-0 run on her own and only got better from there. UF’s undersized lineup had no answers for the 6-foot-3 senior. She finished the opening quarter with 11 points and two huge blocks, one of them on UF guard Funda Nakkasoglu that ended up in the second row.
Guard Delicia Washington got into foul trouble early in the game. With her having to sit out, Florida lacked quickness in its offense, and the UGA defense took advantage, causing eight turnovers in the opening quarter and 12 in the first half.
“We wanted to start out of the gates super aggressive, but we did not do that at all,” Newbauer said after the game. “They dominated us in every aspect of the game.”
UF instead tried to run the offense through guard Kiara Smith, who finished the first half with 10 points, but it was nowhere near enough. The Gators went into the halftime break trailing by 17 points with UGA shooting just over 56 percent from the field.
Georgia extended that lead in the second half when more of its players began to contribute offensively. Guards Taja Cole and Gabby Connally became more aggressive out of the intermission, making eight of UGA’s first 10 points in the third quarter. At one point, Cole ran the same pick-and-roll play four possessions in a row, resulting in three wide-open mid-range shots.
UF’s inability to adjust after the break hurt its chances as the Bulldogs continued to impose from all over the court with aggression at the rim and accurate shooting.
Nakkasoglu, however, found a little rhythm in the second half. The fifth-year senior began to drive to the paint, drawing fouls and making tough layups against the stout UGA defense. She and Smith combined for 27 points, but the lackluster performance from the rest of the lineup resulted in the lopsided defeat.
Guards Danielle Rainey and Ariel Johnson combined for a 1-for-12 shooting performance with forward Zada Williams contributing an 0-for-3 stat line as well. Williams also struggled all game against the imposing Robinson, who finished the contest with 17 points. Robinson’s 12 rebounds were also a big factor as Georgia outrebounded the Gators 42-25.
Florida will need more from its depth players if it hopes to vindicate its deplorable performance next Sunday against South Carolina.
“We need to work on everything,” Newbauer said. “There’s no one particular area that needs to be looked at. It’s everything…Obviously, something’s not right, and we need to evaluate what we are right now before the next game and before the season ends.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at [email protected].