Big Third Quarter Pushes Gators Past Ole Miss and Into Second Round in Greenville

Fueled by a 25-point third quarter, the No. 13-seed University of Florida women’s basketball team earned a 64-57 win over No. 12 Ole Miss on Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament held at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

With the victory, UF advances to the second round where it will battle No. 5 Missouri at 2:30 p.m. Thursday on the SEC Network.

Veterans Funda Nakkasoglu and Delicia Washington combined for 30 points in the second half as the Gators avenged their loss to the Rebels in the same round a season ago. After the teams struggled to score in the first half, the Gators surged ahead by outscoring the Rebels 25-14 in a pivotal third quarter.

Nakkasoglu, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored eight points during the Gators’ third-quarter run and along with Washington, helped the Gators shoot 55 percent in the frame. Nakkasoglu and Washington added 17 points apiece for the game as they accounted for 50 percent of UF’s production.

For Nakkasoglu it was her team-best 24th time in double figures this season and Washington corralled a game-high eight boards.

In a game that saw five ties and three lead changes, Florida earned the victory, handing second-year head coach Cameron Newbauer his first SEC Tournament win.

The Gators shot just 23 percent from the floor in the first, but came out looking like a new team in second half, shooting an efficient 50 percent.

Florida has picked up back-to-back wins for the first time since it won three straight non-conference games in early December.

Sophomore point guard Kiki Smith added eight points, five assists and season-high four steals. Steals played a large role in Florida’s win as it tallied nine and turned the Rebels’ 18 turnovers into 22 points.

Junior forward Zada Williams scored six points and collected seven rebounds while freshman Emanuely de Oliveira added five points and career-high six rebounds.

The Gators led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and withstood a late Rebel run to hold for the momentous win.

Smith scored the first four points for Florida out of the gate as the Gators trailed 6-4 at the first quarter media timeout. After Ole Miss jumped out to an early lead, Florida closed the first period on a 9-2 run and carried an 11-8 lead after the opening stanza. Baskets came at a premium in the first for both squads as defense was the story early.

Ole Miss used a 7-2 run to take the lead at 16-15 late in second period, but Florida scored the last three points of the half to enter the locker room with an 18-16 lead. Both teams struggled to find their footing offensively in the first 20 minutes as neither team shot above 30 percent from the floor.

Ole Miss scored the first points of the second half to tie the score at 18-18, but Nakkasoglu’s baseline jumper quickly put the Gators back ahead 20-18, and from this point forward they would never trail. After Ole Miss cut Florida’s lead to 26-25 midway through the stanza, the Gators closed on a 17-5 run and led 43-30 heading into the fourth.

The Gators started the game 1-of-17 from long range, but dialed into to make three of their last four three-pointers to close the third quarter.

Ole Miss fought back in the fourth, outscoring Florida 27-21, but the Gators made eight straight free throws to fend off the Rebel comeback.

Crystal Allen paced Ole Miss with 22 points and knocked down nine of her 10 attempts from the charity stripe.

Up Next
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Approximately 2:30 p.m. ET (Game will start 25 minutes after conclusion of Game 3 which begins at Noon)
No. 13 Florida (8-22, 3-13) vs. No. 5 Missouri (21-9, 12-3)
Bon Secours Wellness Arena | Greenville, SC
Full SEC Tournament Bracket

Notables

  • Wednesday marked Cameron Newbauer’s first win in the SEC Tournament
  • UF now holds a 21-38 record all time in the SEC Tournament, including a 3-3 mark in the opening round.
  • Florida’s record in SEC Tournament games played in Greenville sits at 2-2
  • Through 30 games, Florida has drained 230 three-pointers which is the second-most in program history and trails just the 249 the Gators made during last season’s record-breaking season. The Gators have knocked down 200 or more three-pointers in consecutive seasons for just the second time in program history joining the 2008-09 and 2009-10 squads.
  • With her three 3-pointers made, Nakkasoglu tied former Gator Steffi Sorensen, who worked the game as a sideline reporter for SEC Network, for second place all-time in single season three-pointers with 83
  • All 17 of Nakkasoglu’s points came in the second half
  • In the past two games, Nakkasoglu has averaged 19 points per game in second half action
  • UF forced Ole Miss into 18 turnovers, its second most of the season
  • Florida held Ole Miss to a season-low 15.4 percent from three-point range (2-of-13) and didn’t allow a three-point make until the fourth quarter
  • Netted 25 points in the third quarter on 55.0 percent shooting (11-of-20)
  • All eight players who played for Florida scored in the game
  • UF held the Rebels scoreless for 6:50 minutes between the end of the first quarter and the midway point of the second quarter.
  • Kiki Smith collected a season-high four steals
  • Nakkasoglu finished in double figures for the 24th time this season
  • Washington added her 15th double-figure scoring game of the season

Quotables

Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening statement…
“Really proud of our squad for the toughness and resilience that we showed from a defensive standpoint today. Ole Miss is a very good defensive team. They did some things that really frustrated us, did a good job of taking away some of our players. We talked about that in the first half at halftime. I think what kept us in it was our defensive intensity, our ability to disrupt at time, try to turn them over. Third quarter we came out, did a terrific job, 55 percent from the floor. I think that’s what kind of got us over the hump. I thought our players did a great job of playing next play after an offensive first half, they could set back basketball for the ages. It’s hard to focus on what’s next, to believe in yourself and have the confidence it’s going to get better. Our players did that. We talked a lot about this year, playing the next play, looking to each other for energy and enthusiasm, having confidence the shots are going to go down. Our players did that. Second half offensive stats there, we did that. But we stayed locked in defensively. Fourth quarter gave up too many free throws there. Overall just really proud of the effort, proud of these two up here. These two, their last two games have been fantastic for us. You talk about wanting to play your best basketball in March, I think our players are focused and believing we’re playing our best basketball right now.

On halftime adjustments…
“We kept talking about defense and rebounding, staying locked in because they’ve got three fifth-year players in (Crystal) Allen, (Shandricka) Sessom, and (La’Karis) Salter that are very good scorers and had a good game against us the first time. We knew we had to stay locked in defensively. Didn’t focus much on the offensive side of the ball, let’s get defense and rebounds, we’ll figure out the offense. Just next play I’d say yes from a defensive standpoint especially, not letting them get comfortable.”

On getting his first SEC Tournament win…
“It’s great because obviously it’s been a tough year for us, just fighting through so many different adversity circumstances with inexperience, with a young team, with some games that we had leads in, just couldn’t hang on. Just the fight and resolve for our team to continue to keep chipping away because it’s hard when you’re a young person to keep having faith and confidence, to keep trusting your training. I think our players have done that. You heard Funda say how much they play for each other. That’s a big testament to who she is as a person. If she wasn’t such a good teammate and person, her teammates wouldn’t want to fight so hard to help her win. To maintain that, be like that in your senior year when you have such a tough year is special. That’s why I love these kids, because they care so much for one another. It translates on the floor to playing next play, sticking together, really fighting and doing everything you can for the person next to you.”

On the whether or not Sunday’s momentum impacted today’s game…
“I think it had to. We spent a lot of time showing them success that we had in that game from a defensive standpoint, success we had in the game from an offensive standpoint. I think most importantly, success we had from the energy that came from our bench, celebrations, sprinting to huddle to talk to each other, give each other encouragement, energy. When you play with that sense of joy and enthusiasm, I think it translates onto the court and gives you some more energy. In a game like this today where it’s tough and scrappy, you need more. From a complete team standpoint, I just thought it was really special. Our last two games have been like that. Everybody is locked in for doing what’s best for the team, not what’s best if I’m on the floor. I would like to say something. Crystal Allen, fantastic young lady, came in this league this year. You look at what she’s done, first year in the SEC. Prolific scorer, made second team all conference, just a tough, gritty young lady. One of those players that you hate to play against. Hate to see her career finish. What an addition to the SEC this year.”

Junior Guard Delicia Washington
On Florida’s performance in the third quarter…
“Coming out halftime, being a little more aggressive. Giving up good shots for great shots. Focusing on knocking down the shots we go through every day in practice, playing for one another, being more aggressive.”

Redshirt senior Guard Funda Nakkasoglu
On staying motivated and focused after a slow first quarter
“Just having confidence in one another. I think that’s been a huge thing. We really rely on each other and play for each other. I think that’s what gets us out of those tough situations.”

On the fourth quarter and closing out the game…
“Everyone did what they knew they needed to do. We came out and were focused for the whole 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. We did face adversity like coach said about fouls we may not have wanted to do right at the end. But we stuck through it. We ran our press really well when we needed to, when they were trying to deny us and be aggressive. We were really poised and patient with what we got.”

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