The Florida women’s basketball team tried to match their male counterparts in reaching the Sweet Sixteen of their respective NCAA Tournaments. Sadly, the Florida women were denied by a team with a considerable height and home-court advantage.
The 11-seed Gators (20-13, 8-8 SEC) fell to the third-seed Penn State Lady Lions (24-7, 13-3 Big Ten) 83-61 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a game played in State College, Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
The Gators were in contention in the first half, holding a brief lead, before Penn State seized control and never looked back. The Lady Lions took an 11-point lead into the half and posted the same scoring margin in the second half of the game. Gator assistant coach David Lowery talked about Penn State’s play.
“I just thought they hit open shots. Their perimeter players scored all of their points, basically,” Lowery said. “We did a pretty decent job of trying to limit their touches inside, and I really didn’t feel like they were trying to do that consistently. I just feel like we didn’t do a good job of guarding the perimeter.”
Gator forward Kayla Lewis, as she has done all season, did all she could to keep the Gators in the game. She finished the game with 20 points and nine rebounds, leading the Gators in both categories.
Lowery weighed in on the forward’s play and what she has meant to the team.
“Enough can’t be said about Kayla this year. For her to be able to come out, and it’s not the way we wanted to end the year, but the way she ended the year and how she’s been playing leading up to the NCAA Tournament, speaks volumes for her toughness, will to do whatever she can and stay out there on the floor that long to do whatever she can to help her team win,” Lowery said. “I thought Kayla played an exceptional ball game from start to finish, and we really appreciate all her efforts.”
In the end, Lewis’ efforts fell by the wayside as the Gators saw their hopes of advancing in the postseason slip away.
Lewis was joined in double figures by senior guard Jaterra Bonds and guard Carlie Needles, who recorded 14 points and 13 points, respectively.
The other senior on the Gators roster, Lily Svete, was quiet. She failed to record a point in the game and only attempted one shot.
The Gators see a season come to an end in which they overachieved in the eyes of many. The Gators, predicted to finish 10th in the SEC, finished fifth in the conference and made the NCAA Tournament.
Lowery praised the team for a hard-fought season and a job well done.
“For us to do what we did, we finished in fifth and still didn’t get the respect we deserve for how hard our kids really worked down the stretch,” Lowery said. “But our kids showed the world who they truly are and what they have been taught and just the opportunity to be able to just go out there and leave it on the court and give all they can.”
The Gators will now look to the off-season to get healthy, add players to a depleted roster and settle the situation with the suspended Christin Mercer in an effort to build upon the successes of this season to propel them into a great season next year.
For postgame sound from David Lowery, click below.