Crushing Defeat Leaves Florida Winless To Start Conference Play

A valiant effort by the Florida Gators women’s basketball team (10-4, 0-1 SEC) was not enough on Sunday as they kickoff Southern Eastern Conference play at home. The Gators gave No.13 ranked Georgia Lady Bulldogs (12-2, 1-1 SEC) a run for their money in a nail bitter at Exactech Arena.

Georgia managed to squeeze a 73-69 victory on the road over Florida.With this victory, the Bulldogs now extends their winning streak over Florida to nine games which dates back to 2018.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs, senior guard Que Morrison scored 18 points including 10-for-10 from the free-throw line to give Georgia the four-point nod. Also, redshirt senior Malury Bates contributed with 13 points and six rebounds shooting 6-for-9 form the floor.

Although having three players scoring in double figures, this marks another lost in SEC openers for the Gators, a streak that goes as far back as 2013. Sophomore forward Jordyn Merritt led the way for the Orange and Blue with 18 points and five rebounds. Along with Merritt, Kiara Smith ended with 17 points while Nina Rickards scored 15.

Smith, the driving force for the Gators defense with her active hands and tremendous effort recorded another five steals for the game. After the postponement of the Mississippi State game, the veteran guard mentions the teams’ preparation heading into Sundays matchup.

For the game, Georgia forced 26 Florida turnovers which led to 29 points including a 22-9 advantage on fast break points.

Florida Throws The First Punch

Florida could not ask for a better start, shooting an impressive 9-of-11 from the floor including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Despite, Georgia’s Sara Ashlee Barker drains a triple following tip, Florida counters with Smith launching from long range tying to ball game.

From there, Florida forced turnovers on the next three offensive possession from Georgia. Later, the Gators goes on a 8-0 spurt leading 15-5, including a Rickard turn around jumper with 5:33 left.

Even so, Georgia remained calm.

Down by double digits, the Bulldogs cuts the deficit in half as they get on a quick 5-0 run. However, Florida ends the quarter on a 8-2 run that was sparked by Merrit. The 6-foot-3 forward drilled two triples including one with 39 seconds. Merrit led the way with 10 points in the quarter.

Florida led 25-14 heading into the second.

Head coach Kelly Rae Finley recently talks about the team hot start early on.

The Tide Starts to Turn for the Bulldogs

Georgia just was not going to be denied as they stormed back with a purpose in the second quarter. A 7-0 Gators run early in the period gave Florida their largest lead of the game. However, down 32-16 with 7:55 left in the period, the Lady Bulldogs defensive effort heighten.

Georgia did not allow not one Gators field goal for the rest of the quarter. Also, forcing an alarming 10 turnovers as they ended the period on a 17-2 run.

Florida led the Lady Bulldogs 34-33 at halftime.

Jordyn Merrit led the scoring with 12 points and Smith added nine. Florida headed into locker room feeling like they played their worse quarter of the season said Finley.

In the third, after two made free throws by Morrison, the Bulldogs were able to get their first lead since the early parts of the first quarter. However, LaVender Briggs answers with a basketball of her own which was followed by another Merritt triple bring the Gators lead to 41-37 with 6:52 left.

Unfortunately, Georgia just will not go away as they continue to chip and claw until they regain the lead at 47-46 with 54 seconds remaining before the final period. Even so, it was short lived as Florida headed into the final period with a narrow one point lead, 50-49.

Another great start by the Orange and Blue in the fourth quarter. Rickard started off the period with a beautiful drive to basketball with contact to completed the three-point play. After two crucial free throws by Merritt, Finley and the Gators lengthen their lead to seven with 6:55 remaining.

Once again, the Bulldogs fires back with 10-0 run of their take back the lead with 3:32 left, 63-60.

Florida and Georgia back and forth game affair continued as a clutch corner three-pointer by Briggs ties the ball game bringing the crowd to its feet. Despite that, Morris showcased aggressive play earning her way to the free-throw line securing the victory for Georgia.

Morris scored 12 of her 18 points in the final period.

https://twitter.com/GatorsWBK/status/1477757197878661120

Looking Ahead

Now, Florida will look to avenge and possibly end their losing skid to Georgia on the road in Athens, Feb.6. However, up first they are back in the Exactech Arena on Thursday, Jan. 6 to face off against Ole Miss. Tip off is set at 6 p.m.

About Curtis Michaud

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