In the start of a new era under the first male coach in program history, the Florida women’s basketball team tipped off the season Saturday afternoon with a 82-66 win over Georgia State in the Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center.
“We’ve talked as a staff recently about our resilience that I felt we’ve lacked. And today our players showed we have resilience,” UF coach Cameron Newbauer said. “We got down and they punched us in the face, but we stayed the course, we stayed calm and we stuck together and we fought back.”
Florida appeared hesitant from the opening tip, and Georgia State capitalized. The Panthers opened the first quarter on an 8-0 run as UF struggled with both defending the perimeter and increasing the pace on the offensive end. The Gators would begin clawing back into the contest, and Funda Nakkasoglu’s layup as time expired pulled UF and Georgia State into a 20-20 deadlock heading into the second quarter, but Florida couldn’t maintain the momentum to open the ensuing period. Florida would go nearly four minutes without a bucket to open the ensuing period as Georgia State continued to push the tempo and stay in front. However, Florida appeared to once again flip a switch as the period wound down. An 11-0 run over the final three minutes of the first half led the Gators to their first lead of the game just before the break.
“I felt like we had kind of taken their best shot, how they started out on fire in the first quarter,” Newbauer said. “I told them just stay the course, now let’s give them our best shot, let’s throw our punches rather than being on our heels. And I think they responded to that.”
UF took a 38-31 lead into halftime, and it appeared Newbauer’s message corrected Florida’s issues to open the previous quarters. The Gators upped the tempo from the get-go in the second half, pushing the lead to14 by the midway point of the third quarter on a layup by senior Haley Lorenzen. The Iowa City native would finish the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds, the 40th double-digit scoring game of her UF career.
“I think I just focused on having fun tonight, I wasn’t worried about making shots tonight or doing anything. I was just focusing on what I could control, and I think that’s what we all try to do,” Lorenzen said. “We know what bar we have to set going forward.”
Nakkasoglu, who sat out last season after transferring from Utah State, provided nine points and six rebounds, graduate transfer Paulina Hersler poured in a career-high 15 points and senior Dyandria Anderson finished the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
UF is back in action Tuesday when the Gators return to their home court to host Arkansas State at 7 p.m.
“As a head coach, I’ve been able to rest in knowing that often times our players are going to put me at ease,” Newbauer said. “And that’s what they did today.”