Florida Gators vs. Florida State Seminoles Photo by Lorenzo Vasquez/UAA

Gators Women’s Hoops Win Nail-Biter Against Purdue

To say the Florida Gators’ game against Purdue was close would be a hefty understatement.

On Monday afternoon in Nassau, Bahamas, the Gators Women’s basketball team beat the Boilermakers 52-49 in their first game of the 2023 Baha Mar Flamingo Championship. The victory marks Florida’s first win over Purdue, and the series is now 3-1.

Can’t Take The Lid Off The Basket

To start the game, both teams had a low-scoring affair. Purdue shot 22.1% from the field (4-for-19). The Gators did slightly better shooting 33.3% (5-for-15). But the story of the quarter was the slow start of Florida Point Guard Aliyah Matharu. She is the team’s leading scorer but she only took one shot attempt in the first frame and scored zero points.

Perhaps the answer to the lack of shooting in the first quarter is due to her last opening quarter against FSU. On Friday against the Seminoles, Matharu shot 1-for-5 in the opening period, only scoring three points.

Nonetheless, Leilani Correa led the way in the opening period with five points and three rebounds. The score at the end of the first was 14-10 Gators.

Three Point Land Closed For Business

When it came to shooting from beyond the arc, the basket figuratively shrunk to the size of a wedding ring for both teams. Florida shot 1-for-5 from three, 3-for-9 for the half. But Purdue really could not find the bottom of the net as they shot 0-for-8 in the first and were shooting 7.7% from downtown by halftime.

Although it was once again a low-scoring quarter, Matharu decided it was time to wake up.

The senior guard out of Washington, D.C., not only took a charge to give Florida the ball, but she dropped six points to help the Orange & Blue maintain the lead.

On the other side of the court, Boilermaker Abbey Ellis led the way for her team with eight points, however, she shot 1-fo-5 from the three.

A key factor in this game was Faith Dut. The 6-foot-4 forward is a dominant force inside and has helped the second unit all year in securing rebounds. But Dut found herself in trouble as she picked up three fouls in only four minutes. Her expected exit from the game played a large role in the second half. Florida led 26-22 heading into halftime.

A Tale of Runs

Laila Reynolds would get things started in quarter three for the Gators. The freshman would end her night with six points and four boards.

Matharu would continue to heat up as she scored five more in the third, which would aid Florida in going on a 7-0 run in the middle of the period. But coming out of the timeout, the guard would pick up her fourth personal foul, which gave Florida coach Kelly Rae Finley no choice but to take her out.

With their leading scorer out, the Gators were looking for answers and Purdue became hungry.

The Boilermakers realized that shooting behind the arc was not going to work, so they only took one shot attempt in period three. Despite the Gators being up by as many as 11 points, Ellis led Purdue on a huge run where the team shot 5-for-5 from the field. With Florida shooting 1-for-7 during that stint, the game was tied at 40 a piece.

But with seconds to go, Gator Jeriah Warren was able to sneak behind the defense to give Florida a 42-40 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

Down to The Wire

After not seeing the court in the third, Dut made her return and opened the final period up for the Gators.

Once again, Florida found themselves in a tough position with Matharu on the bench with four fouls. Leilani Correa tried to take things into her own hands but she ended up only shooting 1-for-6 in Q4.

Fortunately for the Gators, Purdue was also struggling to score to start the quarter. But eventually, the Black and Gold caught back up and retook the lead 46-44.

After seeing that the Boilermakers could run away with this, coach Finley rolled the dice in Baha Mar and put Matharu back in the game. In the final moments, this coaching decision would play pivotal.

With Florida up 50-49 with 38 seconds to go, Correa would try to extend the lead but would miss. Purdue got the rebound but from out of nowhere, Matharu grabbed her only steal of the game with 15 seconds left to give Florida the basketball. The senior knocked down both of her free throws to make it 52-49. She went 7-for-7 from the charity stripe.

Even though Purdue shot 2-for-21 from three to this point, Ellis had no choice with five seconds left but to shoot from beyond the arc. She missed. The Gators got the win.

Up Next for Gators

Florida will continue their Baha Mar play on Wednesday when they go against Columbia University at 1:30 p.m.

About Miguel Molina

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