It was a scrappy affair with 3-pointers flying and bodies constantly hitting the floor as each team dove for loose balls, fought for rebounds and combined for 40 3-point attempts as Florida’s women’s basketball team (17-9, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) fell to Missouri (16-10, 5-8 SEC) in an 81-76 game in Gainesville Thursday that came down to the final 34 seconds of play.
With Mizzou leading by three and the ball in Florida’s possession, the Gators faltered on a side out of bounds pass as freshman Sierra Michaelis jumped the passing lane to come away with a steal for the Tigers.
Florida would not recover.
“Just a lack of intensity,” Gators coach Amanda Butler called it. “We were just way too relaxed with the ball, which is really hard to understand at that point in the ballgame.”
But the game wasn’t lost on an errant pass. It was lost behind the 3-point arc.
The Tigers hoisted a barrage of 3-pointers – right in line with their game plan – en route to making 12 from downtown on 48 percent shooting. Junior Morgan Eye had a field day knocking down six of her 10 attempts from deep and led Mizzou with 20 points.
Holding on to only a four-point lead with about 10 minutes to play, the Gators surrendered five consecutive 3-pointers over the next four minutes to put them in a six-point hole. When Florida tried to rally and get the momentum back after an and-one from sophomore January Miller, Missouri responded with another 3-pointer.
It sucked the air out of the O’Connell Center.
“The way they made plays, the level of toughness and determination the team played [with] just, unfortunately, dwarfed ours in the most important moments of the ballgame,” Butler said.
Despite the porous perimeter defense, Florida still had its chances to defend home court but couldn’t seem to get it right. Even with the game out of reach the Gators managed to turn the ball over on their final possession as redshirt junior Kayla Lewis dribbled the ball off of her foot.
However, that was one of the few moments where Lewis made a mistake.
The six-foot-tall guard posted a 20 point, 10 rebound double-double on 9 of 11 shooting. But Lewis’ individual play meant little to her in the loss.
“I just want to do my job for my team. And if that means score 20 points and get 10 rebounds, or if it doesn’t, then so be it,” Lewis said. “But obviously that wasn’t enough tonight so it’s bitter sweet.”
It’s hard to game plan for a team shooting better from beyond the 3-point line than from the rest of the field. But Butler was critical of her team’s lack of commitment to the strategies they worked on leading up to this game. She said they knew Missouri was going to play free with the ball from deep, and getting beat that way was disappointing.
The Gators will try to break out of the two-game losing streak on Sunday when they travel to Columbus, S.C., to face the SEC’s best in the No. 4 Gamecocks. Going up against one of the nation’s best is obviously a daunting task. South Carolina has only lost twice this season and is on an eight-game win streak, only losing once in the last 16 games – including two wins over No. 15 Kentucky.
To hear more from the game, listen below.