Cam Newbauer

“You have to learn that in the SEC when you get punched you can’t flinch, you can’t falter,” said Gators women's basketball coach Cam Newbauer. “We just kinda flinched a little bit at the wrong time and got away from what our game plan was.”

 

The Florida women’s basketball team needed big performances from its two leading-scorers in Funda Nakkasoglu and Delicia Washington to win on Sunday. They didn’t deliver.

Despite the best efforts of sophomore guard Kiara Smith to fill the void, Auburn (13-2, 1-1 SEC) pulled away late at the O’Connell Center to defeat the Gators (4-11, 0-2 SEC) 64-56.

“You have to learn that in the SEC when you get punched you can’t flinch, you can’t falter,” coach Cam Newbauer said. “We just kinda flinched a little bit at the wrong time and got away from what our game plan was.”

It was a back-and-forth affair for the first 30 minutes of the game. Florida had its best stretch right when it looked like Auburn was ready to pull away in the second quarter, going on a 12-0 run to end the half after being down by six. The teams continued trading blows into the fourth, when the Gators trailed by just one with under eight minutes left.

Auburn’s full court press, which the team utilized for most of the afternoon, finally started to wear Florida down in the fourth quarter. The Gators committed a series of turnovers that enabled Auburn to pull away with an 8-0 run. UF never recovered.

Auburn guard Daisa Alexander scored four of the eight Auburn points during the run on her way to a season-high 22.

Although the Gators fought, it was always going to be an uphill battle with Nakkasoglu and Washington struggling. Nakkasoglu, who was averaging 18.8 points a game before Sunday, went just 4-12 from the field and scored 11 points. Washington, who was averaging 13.1 points a game, fared even worse, going 1-8 from the floor en route to just three points.

Smith was UF’s leading scorer against Auburn with a season-high 15 points.

Defense was the least of Florida’s worries on Sunday a game after it blew a 20-point lead. The Tigers were averaging over 80 points a game coming into the contest but only managed 64 against UF. That trend will need to continue on Thursday for the Gators to have success in Columbia, South Carolina, against the No. 23 Gamecocks and its SEC fifth-ranked offense.

“The [loss] is no indication of where we go from here,” Newbauer said. “It’s another part of the process for us to just keep getting better with the young team we have.”

Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at [email protected].

Sam Campisano is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women's basketball team. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017, and previously covered men's golf, swimming and soccer.