Florida women’s basketball is now 0-3 in their 2018-2019 campaign after an 82-92 loss to Mercer on Thursday. Although the Gators had their best night offensively of the season, the Bears were just as dominant on that side of the ball.
UF was down 21 going into the fourth quarter but were able to slice the deficit down to four points. While his team ended up losing by double digits, head coach Cameron Newbauer was pleased with how the Gators performed down the stretch:
“We responded well in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter,” Newbauer said. “We played with much greater urgency and aggressiveness late in the game. We made a number of plays on both ends of the floor to put ourselves in position to win but just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Keeping it Close in the First Half
Florida found itself in an early hole after falling behind 17-26 in the first quarter.
Mercer’s KeKe Calloway was a tough player to slow down due to her shot-making ability. The Bears’ senior scored 11 of her 30 points in the opening quarter, including three makes from beyond the arc.
With the team only being down three possessions heading into the next period, the Gators made it an emphasis to excel defensively. Florida allowed two points from Calloway, who missed five shots in the second quarter.
While the Gators managed to stifle the Bears’ offense, they put up just 13 points in the quarter. Heading into halftime, Florida was down 39-30 after shooting a quiet 41 percent from the field.
Refusing to Give Up
Any optimism Florida had quickly begun to fade away as the second half continued to progress. Calloway bounced back to score 9 points in the third quarter, all of them coming off three-pointers.
Florida’s Funda Nakkasoglu had 8 points to go along with Delicia Washington’s 5 points, but the Gators were outscored 30-18. The team trailed by 21 points heading into the last quarter of the game.
The final frame of Thursday’s matchup saw Washington nearly lead Florida to a come-from-behind victory. The junior guard put up 20 points in the fourth quarter, which included five free throws and 3 three-pointers.
Overall, Washington had a career-high 33 points, a milestone she attributed to the players around her on the court:
“It was all about my teammates believing in me,” Washington said. “They saw that I was hot and told me to keep shooting the ball. I just took what was open tonight, when the defense sucked in on me I dished it.”
After being down only 76-72 with just under three minutes left to play, Mercer went on a 16-10 run to close out the game.
FINAL | Mercer 92, Florida 82. Washington finishes with a career-best 33 points and despite outscoring the Bears 34-23 in the 4th, the Gators' comeback bid falls short in Macon. pic.twitter.com/W4XmVUf2iX
— Gators Women’s Basketball (@GatorsWBK) November 16, 2018
Takeaways for the Gators
The dynamic duo of Nakkasoglu and Washington almost allowed Florida to get their first win of the season. Newbauer praised the two, who combined for 56 of the Gators’ 82 points, for what they have done for the team this year:
“Delicia and Funda have really stepped up this year and really did tonight as well,” Newbauer said. “They continue to exhibit some great leadership in asserting their will in the game.”
Another takeaway from Thursday’s game was that Florida had its best offensive showing of their first three games. The Gators had season-highs in shooting percentage (47 percent), three-point percentage (46 percent) and free throw percentage (94 percent).
Even though Mercer ended up winning, Florida had more total three’s (12) than their opponent (8):
On Sunday, Florida will be back home at the Exactech Arena for the first time since their season-opener against Gardner-Webb. They will take on Northwestern (3-0) at 2 p.m.
(Quotes Courtesy of the University Athletic Association)