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UF Women’s Basketball: Florida Falls to No. 1 South Carolina in Home Finale

Sophomore Ariel Johnson passes the ball to a teammate in UF’s battle with No. 1 South Carolina.
Photo by Forrest Gmitro

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

Women’s basketball falls 100-67 to top-ranked Gamecocks.

Battling the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (27-1, 15-0), the University of Florida women’s basketball team (15-13, 6-9) dropped a 100-67 decision Thursday evening in its 2019-20 home finale at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The Gators got off to a strong start, scoring 21 points in the opening frame, but weren’t able to sustain it as the Gamecocks extended their program-best winning streak to 22 games. Redshirt-senior Zada Williams, suiting up in front of the O’Connell Center crowd for the final time during regular season play, put together a trademark performance with an efficient 16 points. The Lake Wales native made the most of her touches, scoring on eight of her 11 attempts.

Joining the always-steady Williams in double figures were Lavender Briggs, who scored 10 or more points for the 24th time, and fellow freshman Faith Dut, who posted a career-best 10 points. Dut continues to improve, as she has now recorded eight or more points in three of her last six games, after scoring below eight in her first 20 career games played.

Briggs got off to a slow start but finished very strong, adding 15 points.

The trio combined to score 41 of Florida’s 67 points.

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The Gators’ effort and energy never waned, but a second quarter in which the Gamecocks outscored them 23-9 proved to be the difference.

Taking on their 10th AP Top 25 foe of the season, Florida posted 50 points in the paint but allowed a season-high 60 to the long-and-athletic South Carolina squad.

The nation’s No. 8 offense lived up to the billing, as the Gamecocks scored 100 or more points for the third time this season. USC featured five double-figure scorers, paced by the senior duo of Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Tyahsa Harris who added 18 and 16 points, respectively.

Squaring off with an AP No. 1 team for the 10th time in program history, Florida saw nine of its 10 players score a basket.

Playing its final home of the game of the season, Florida fed off the crowd’s energy early and built a 12-8 lead. After some back-and-forth possessions, Florida trailed 18-14 at the first quarter media timeout, which didn’t come until the 3:49 mark after some fast-paced action. The teams combined to make 16 of their first 24 shots, as offense came easy for both squads. UF strung together some great offensive possessions but struggled to get stops and faced a 31-21 deficit at quarter’s end. The Gators made 10 of their 17 shots, and Smith and Williams had six points apiece in the opening stanza. 

The Gators’ 21 points tied the Gamecocks’ season high for points allowed in a first quarter and were the most they have conceded since November.

In the first, Florida kept pace with the high-octane Gamecock attack, but in the second it shot just 25 percent, and USC began to pull away. USC closed the second quarter on a 14-2 run, while Florida endured a three-plus minute scoreless stretch. After the top-ranked Gamecocks held a 23-9 edge in the second quarter, Florida trailed 54-30 at the intermission.

Williams checked in with eight points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting from the floor. The Gamecocks’ offense was efficient and diverse, as nine different players scored for the Gamecocks in the first 17 minutes of action.

USC shot above 55 percent in each quarter and featured three in double figures at the halftime break. Herbert Harrigan tallied 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting to lead all scorers.

Florida found more offensive success in the third quarter, registering 18 points, but the Gamecocks kept things humming with 24 more of their own. At 78-48, South Carolina led heading into the final frame.

In the fourth, Florida would battle back with 19 points on 47 percent shooting.

Briggs scored just two points in the first half but got better as the game progressed, notching 13 second half points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Williams (8) and Dut (8) also put together strong second-half performances.

Taking on back-to-back AP Top 25 teams for the third time this season, the Gators tallied 67 points against a stout South Carolina defense, registering the most points against the Gamecocks since Jan. 20.

Battling against a South Carolina defense that entered the game conceding a league-low 55.4 points per game, Florida shot at a 58.8 percent clip in the opening quarter and 43.5 for the game.

The Gators return to the floor Sunday, March 1, when they wrap up their 2019-20 regular season at Georgia. The teams have an identical record and will be battling with tournament seeding on the line.

UP NEXT
Sunday, March 1
Florida (15-13, 6-9) at Georgia (15-13, 6-9)
Stegeman Coliseum | Athens, Ga.

NOTABLES

  • UF falls to 0-10 vs. AP Top No. 1 teams
  • The Gators finish the season with nine regular season home wins, their most in four years.
  • Lavender Briggs, Zada Williams and Faith Dut scored in double figures (Williams – 16, Briggs – 15, Dut – 10).
  • Williams started the game off 4-for-4 from the floor and has reached double figures in three of the past five contests.
  • Briggs has reached double figures in 24 of her 27 games played.
  • Dut set a new career high with 10 points.
  • Florida’s 21 first-quarter points tied the most points the Gamecocks have given up in an opening quarter all season; last occurred on November 28th against Indiana.
  • 50 of Florida’s 67 points came from inside the paint.
  • Florida was outrebounded for just the 11th time.
  • Florida’s 67 points were the fourth-most an opponent has scored against South Carolina in conference play.
  • The Gators have battled 19 ranked teams this season, their most since the 2001-02 campaign.

QUOTABLES

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

Opening Statement…
 “That’s the number one team in the country. I think that Dawn (Staley) has a better team than the one that won the national championship. They can shoot the three ball much better, they have incredible length and athleticism, just a very, very good team. I thought we did a good job in the first quarter. They jump people in the first quarter big time, so I thought we started off and in the last two or three minutes they got a couple run outs on us. I didn’t really like our second quarter. We talked at half time about having discipline and the toughness to keep competing regardless of the score. I think you saw that in the second half. We only had three second half turnovers, just playing with aggressiveness and passion. Diving on loose balls and trying to create some opportunities that we didn’t create in the second quarter. I really liked our second half response and that we competed. I thought Zada (Williams) and Faith (Dut) did a great job. They combined for 13 of 18 (from the floor) and just played with good aggressiveness and kept their seals. I was thrilled with Zada’s three or four left-handed layups. I’m a big weak-hand guy… I just really liked the aggressiveness that we played with in the second half. Some of the shots we had got blocked. Against a typical team, they are pretty good shots, but with their length, they did such a good job. That’s a program you emulate and that’s a program you want to be like, but I liked that we fought and competed in the second half and never stopped competing.”

On South Carolina’s adjustments…
“They’re making you want to shoot behind ball screens… It took them awhile to make that adjustment and we took advantage of it while we could. Against them, you have to throw the roll pass late. Attack deep and throw late, we did a good job of doing that. They made an adjustment and used their length and size. I just remember one time, we had someone on the wing that threw a post entry and (Laeticia Amihere) put her hands up. It’s no joke that they’re the number one team in the country. I think they’re better than a national championship team, and they play hard. Some of the shots that they hit, you might think that they’re off balance, but those are good shots because those kids practice it in the gym all the time.”

On South Carolina’s transition offense…
“They get down the floor so quickly. First of all, they rebound very well and then they get down the floor so fast. Another thing they did that was smart in transition is that they get down and they have a big that stops and seals the guard and they throw over the top. We’re scratching our heads at how to stop it. I didn’t want to send five people back because I wanted us to keep attacking and being aggressive. They made us pay for it.”

On his team playing at a fast pace…
“The game dictates how you have to play. You have to take what the defense is giving you. I thought we did a pretty good job of that last game, and I thought tonight we did for the most part. The second quarter, we just didn’t adjust quickly enough. Part of that is just a young team, we have one junior and one senior and then all freshmen and sophomores on the floor. They’re just not ready to make those adjustments that quick yet with that good of a team. (South Carolina) has a lot of freshmen too… They have great leadership, great upperclassmen, and great depth on that team. I liked that we finally made the adjustment. It wasn’t quick enough, but I’m glad that we made it and competed still.”

#12 Zada Williams

On how tough South Carolina was…
“They did well with their individual talents. They shot the ball well, they got layups, they did everything to the best of their ability, and it really showed tonight. Credit to them and what they do.”

On building from the positives of the game…
“When we came into halftime, we [knew] no matter what the score is, we have to play hard. Because we’re not playing for just today, we’re playing for Sunday, we’re playing for the tournament, we’re playing for after that. It doesn’t matter if you’re down five [or] ten, up three, you play your heart out. I feel like that’s what I’m going to take from this. Continue to push, because you never know. If it’s a three point game [and] you have that boost of energy come, it could change the game in a split second.”

On building from the success Florida found in the opening minutes…
“Just mindset. Just knowing that Coach Cam said they usually jump people in the first quarter, so just knowing that, we went back and forth with them in the opening quarter. Just keep that mindset for a full four quarters—that’s the next step.”

#25 Faith Dut
On her performance…
“Every game, you lace up and you go to work. I’m pushed by all of my coaches, all my teammates every day, so every day is just a new opportunity to compete. It’s not every day you get to go up against people who are the greatest in the country, so you’ve got to keep playing. We all lace up the same way they do.”

On how tonight improved her confidence…
“I think the most important thing is just to show up for my teammates and be a presence every time I step on the court. Every time my name gets called, it’s an opportunity. I’m learning that slowly but surely.”

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