The Gators women’s basketball team dropped to 0-4 after losing to Northwestern 83-74 on Sunday. Florida was in a position to win with three minutes left in regulation, but could not hold onto their comfortable lead.
As she has done all season, Funda Nakkasoglu continued to score at will on the court. Nakkasoglu had 26 points in the game, and shot 69 percent from the field to go along with 60 percent from behind the arc. Delicia Washington struggled to get anything to fall, going 5-20 from the field and just 1-12 on three pointers.
Head coach Cameron Newbauer spoke to the media about his team’s loss against the Wildcats:
“These young ladies show up and they fight and they battle. Every single day,” Newbauer said. “We just got to find a way to put it together for 40 minutes on the court with the bright lights on.”
Close battle in the first half
Nakkasoglu came into Sunday’s game as Florida’s leading scorer with 22 points per game. The redshirt senior continued her impressive start to the season by scoring with ease against the Wildcats in the first two quarters.
Although she only attempted five field goals in the half, Nakkasoglu was efficient in her limited shots. She shot 60 percent from the field and knocked down all five of her free throws.
FUNDA FOR 3⃣
— Gators Women’s Basketball (@GatorsWBK) November 18, 2018
Washington, who had a career-high 33 points against Mercer, could not continue her momentum from Thursday’s game. Washington had just five points on 2-8 shooting and three turnovers.
On the opposite end of the floor, the Gators had a tough time stopping the tandem of Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Lindsey Pulliam. The two combined for 20 points on 9-15 shooting from the field.
Overall, Florida gave up just 29 points in the first half, held Northwestern to 36 percent shooting and allowed just one make from the three-point line. The problem for the Gators is that they only managed to shoot 38 percent and knock down 2 three pointers.
Not able to finish down the stretch
Florida received some major contributions from the trio of Nakkasoglu, Washington and Zada Williams in the third quarter. The three players combined for 22 points and drained 10 of their 12 shot attempts.
In the middle of the quarter, Williams scored six straight points on three layups that gave the Gators a 48-42 lead. Williams, who came off the bench, said her teammates helped her go on this run:
“The past couple of days have been really rough for me,” Williams said. “So I think them believing and telling me to keep going is kind of what carried that little stretch that we had.”
As a team, they shot 79 percent and led for all but 40 seconds in this frame. Northwestern, however, shot 69 percent and trailed 57-51 going into the final period.
The fourth quarter saw the Gators give up an 11 point lead in the final three minutes of the game. After Florida went on a 13-3 run that put Northwestern in a double digit hole, the Wildcats responded with 11 straight points.
Kristina Moore, who had a season-high 10 points, seemingly had the game-winner when her layup put Florida up by two with about 15 seconds left. Northwestern’s Jordan Hamillton made the game-tying layup to make the score 72-72 and force overtime.
In overtime, the Gators were absolutely dominated by the Wildcats. Florida was outscored 11-2 and never held the lead despite having led for over 32 minutes in the first four quarters.
Florida overcame their third quarter struggles against Northwestern. Prior to Sunday, the Gators were outscored 63-41 the three third quarters they had played this season. Newbauer discussed a few of the factors that led to his team doing well coming out of the half:
“I think we had a little bounce in our step from the first half,” Newbauer said. “We talked about halftime just about staying the course with what we were doing. I think Zada came out and really kind of ignited us when she got in the game.”
The Gators’ opponents are not blowing out UF this season. Florida has lost by an average of 7 points per game in their four defeats, but the team has been in a position to win each time. Newbauer is confident about the mentality his group of players will have during a next game that is close:
“There’s no doubt in my mind what the response will be,” Newbauer said of how his team will bounce back. “Next time this happens in a game, hopefully we strengthen our grip a little tighter and stick together a little more. Just play smarter and more together.”
The Gators will be on the road this Wednesday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (3-0 ). Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 2 p.m.