Gators Fall at Home to No. 7 Mississippi State

The University of Florida women’s basketball team fell 90-42 to No. 7 Mississippi State Thursday evening at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
 
Funda Nakkasoglu registered points 14 to pace the Gators, but Florida was unable to quell a potent Bulldog offense which scored 90 or more points for the 10th time this season. 
 
Nakkasoglu recorded her team-best 14th double-figure scoring game of the season and knocked down multiple three-pointers in a game for the 14th time. Freshman guard Ariel Johnson, who earned her fourth starting nod of the season, added nine points by knocking down four of her seven field goal attempts.
 
Florida outrebounded MSU 40-36, holding the edge on the glass in third-straight contest. UF finished with 40 or more boards for the seventh time this season, and 16 of its rebounds came on the offensive end.
 
The Bulldogs claimed their eighth straight victory and improved to 6-0 in SEC play after shooting 50 percent or better in three of the four quarters, including the opening stanza when it shot 68.4 percent (13-of-19).
 
Going up against one of the nation’s top frontcourts in Teaira McGowan and Anriel Howard, junior forward Paige Robinson hauled in nine rebounds, her most since Dec. 2 vs. Texas Tech.

Nakkasoglu scored Florida’s first five points to give the Gators an early 5-4 lead but Mississippi State rattled off a 10-0 scoring run to claim a 14-5 lead at the first quarter media timeout. MSU carried a 27-9 lead at the end of the first as Nakkasoglu scored all nine Gator points. Florida’s first points not scored by Nakkasolgu came at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter when Delicia Washington connected on a free throw.
 
The Gators trailed 54-22 at the half as Mississippi State closed the second quarter with a 16-0 scoring run. MSU shot 24-of-36 (67 percent) from the floor and four of six (67 percent) from distance in the first 20 minutes as they looked the part of a team that entered the contest averaging a league-best 90.9 points per game.
 
The Bulldogs padded their lead by outscoring the Gators, 19-12 in the third.
 
Anriel Howard scored 21 to lead the Bulldogs who improve to 8-1 on the road. The Texas A&M transfer came out as the catalyst for MSU, pouring in 17 points on eight of 10 shooting in the first period.
 
UF limited McCowan, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, to just two points which is the fewest she has scored all season.
 
Up Next
Sunday, Jan. 27 | 2 p.m. ET
Florida (5-14, 1-5) vs. Arkansas (15-5, 4-2)
Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center | Gainesville, Fla.
 
Notables

  • Freshman Ariel Johnson started her fourth game of the season, marking the 23rd time a freshman player cracked the starting lineup for Florida.
  • UF outrebounded its opponent for the third straight game.
  • Tearia McCowan finished with just two points for the Bulldogs, her lowest output of the season.
  • Funda Nakkasoglu finished with 10 or more points for the 14th time this season and 90th time in her career.
  • Thursday’s matchup featured the No. 2 and No. 3 active career points leaders in the SEC in Nakkasoglu (2nd, 1,835) and McCowan (3rd, 1,592).
  • Paige Robinson led the Gators with nine rebounds, marking the second game she has paced UF in rebounds.
  • Florida collected 40 or more rebounds for the seventh time and outrebounded its opponent for the 10thtime this season.
  • Ariel Johnson has scored at least one three-pointer in 13 games this season, including three in a row.
  • Florida finished 13 of 21 from the free throw line compared to MSU’s 6 of 12.

 
Quotables
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
Opening Statement
“We won the rebounding battle (+4), with 16 offensive rebounds, which was fantastic. We held the best center in the country to two points and six rebounds and I thought that we did a terrific job with team defense on her. I thought we had a couple bright spots in Paige RobinsonAriel Johnson and Funda (Nakkasoglu). This was a great experience for us to play a team like that from a defensive capacity. (Mississippi State) did a really good job from three, making shots when they had to. We got better tonight and we fought. We learned a lot and we will grow from this game.”
 
On moving past this game . . .
“We outrebounded them tonight, but that’s the relentless effort of raising our own bar. We talk a lot about that, and I think some players raised our bar and their individual bars tonight. With 16 offensive rebounds against that team, that’s effort. I was proud of our effort and attitude today to keep fighting and keep growing. It was a great learning experience.”
 
On building an offense around the perimeter shots . . .
“We aren’t there yet, but we shoot the ball well in practice and we are gaining more experience. When you look at our roster, you might think we have an experienced team, but in terms of Division I experience, we don’t have that. This is all brand new to everybody except for Funda and Delicia. Growth opportunities are every moment for us, and we’d be remiss if we sit here and focus on the scoreboard and realize, ‘shoot, we lost.’ Instead, we have to see where won today, and we won in a lot of places.”
 
Senior Guard Funda Nakkasoglu 
 On adjustments going into Arkansas Sunday…
“They are two completely different teams so we need to be focused. Bring motivation and just work hard in practice. We’ve been talking about raising the bar, we just need to come with the mentality that we want to raise our own bar and take this game as motivation heading into next game.” 
 
On her hot shooting to start to the game…
“I think all of us were just being aggressive. I had the looks and the help from my teammates so I think that was one thing that you know helped me, personally, out. I think all of us were being super aggressive.”
 
Freshman Guard Ariel Johnson 
 On her focus on scoring by driving the lane…
“Yes, I’ve been working on that a lot lately. I know that playing in such a tough conference, I have to do more than just shoot the three so that’s been something I’ve been working on.”
 
On going up against a national-championship caliber team in Mississippi State…
“I learned that we definitely should always play hard no matter the outcome, no matter the score. Just play hard. We have nothing to lose.”

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