On Thursday, the Gators women’s basketball team will be away from Exactech Arena for the second straight game when they take on Mercer.
Florida is looking to bounce back after falling to the Florida State Seminoles 56-63 this past Sunday. With an 0-2 record so far, a loss against the Bears would mark the Gators worst start of the century.
Continuing to be confident
Although his team has only lost by a combined nine points in their first two games, head coach Cameron Newbauer is keeping up the positivity with his players.
The second-year coach is more worried about the development of his group than their winless start to the season:
“We’re confident in the growth we show every day in practice and together as a group,” Newbauer said. “We don’t focus on wins and losses. If we do that, that’s going to shake your confidence.”
One area that Newbauer is hoping for his group to continue to improve in is on the backboards. The Gators are averaging 41 rebounds per game and have created a few second-chance opportunities by collecting 42 total offensive rebounds so far.
For Newbauer, setting the tone in rebounding against Mercer will all come down to the mentality of his team:
Along with Funda Nakkasoglu leading Florida in scoring in each of their first two games, the redshirt senior has demonstrated incredible efficiency. Nakkasoglu is currently averaging 21.5 points per game, is shooting 57 percent from the field and has knocked down three pointers on 56 percent of her attempts.
Those numbers are a small sample size, but Newbauer attributes Nakkasoglu’s fast start to the season to her mentality on the court and ability to make shots:
While talking to the media on Tuesday, Newbauer also had high praise for Nakkasoglu outside of the basketball court. He talked about how his leading scorer and two of his other payers have stepped into leadership roles this season.
“You look at Zada Williams, you look at Delicia (Washington), you look at Funda and how hard they’re playing. [They’re] the three players that have real experience on the court… they’ve done a good job of stepping up and trying to lead the way,” Newbauer said.
Evaluating their opponent
There will be one person Florida needs to pay close attention to during their matchup against Mercer: KeKe Calloway. The senior averages 26 points and 3.5 assists per game for the Bears, who are currently 1-1 on the season.
The bright side for the Gators is that Calloway has been somewhat inefficient in her shot attempts. Even though she is easily Mercer’s leading scorer, Calloway is only shooting 39 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the arc.
Newbauer knows that completely stopping Calloway will be a tough challenge, so the Gators will implement some defensive strategies to limit her impact on the game:
Overall, Florida will be in for a tough battle against Mercer on Thursday. The Bears went 30-2 last year before eventually falling to the fourth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament.
While Mercer has the edge in most offensive statistics, there are a few areas the Gators can exploit. The Bears are giving up 70.5 points and 38 rebounds per game, while allowing 44 percent of their opponents three pointers to fall down. If Florida is to come out victorious, they will need to take of advantage of those weaknesses.
Florida will be in Macon (GA.) on Thursday to take on Mercer in the Hawkins Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.