BASKETBALL

Florida women's basketball: Fouls and turnovers mount as Gators fall to Georgia Bulldogs

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun

Florida women's basketball's collapse against Georgia Sunday afternoon was best summed up by the game's final play: a Gators' turnover, followed by a trip to the free throw line for the Bulldogs.

Despite trailing for more than 30 minutes, the Bulldogs outscored the Gators 34-20 in the fourth quarter, which paved the way for Georgia to escape Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center with an 82-77 win.

Gators, White doing OK:Florida Gators and Mike White have both come out ahead on basketball court| Whitley

Florida gymnasts on spot:'Unfinished business': Is this the year Florida gymnastics ends its title drought?

Here are takeaways from Florida's second consecutive SEC loss.

Foul trouble forces fourth-quarter collapse

Florida (12-5, 1-3 SEC) committed 29 fouls against Georgia (13-5, 2-2 SEC), which is the most committed by the Gators in any contest this season. Twelve came in the final quarter, allowing the Bulldogs to put up 17 shots from the free-throw line down the stretch.

"We don't make excuses in this program, but 17 free throws in the fourth quarter is a little bit outrageous to me," Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley said.

As fouls continued to mount against the Gators, Finley saw her bench shorten. Four players fouled out, including Florida's two biggest three-point threats, sophomore Alberte Rimdal and senior KK Deans.

Twenty of Georgia's points came from the free throw line Sunday.

"It was huge," Finley said when asked about how the Gators' foul trouble impacted the game's result. "It was a game changer."

Gators find shooting groove

All things considered, Florida had a great afternoon offensively.

The Gators finished the game having shot with 52% efficiency from the field. However, it was Florida's presence from beyond the arc that had the Gators rolling early.

Florida combined for 12 three-point shots with Deans going 5-for-9, Rimdal 4-for-9 and senior Nina Rickards 2-for-4.

"Through the first three (conference) games, we didn't shoot the ball particularly well," Finley said. "We as a coaching staff and myself, we believe in our shooters. We have a lot of three-level scorers, we have a lot of players who can do a lot of different things and they're growing in their skillsets. To shoot 50% from the three tonight, I wasn't surprised. They've worked tirelessly on that."

With her effort from beyond the arc, Deans led Florida's scoring with 21 points, while Rickards chipped in 17.

Of Rickards' 17 points, 12 came in the final frame as she led the Gators' late comeback bid.

Georgia led by as many as 10 with 1:19 to play. But a scoring tear from Rickards would put Florida back in position to compete until the end, trimming the Bulldogs' lead to as little as one point.

"Nina is a great player. She's a three-level scorer. She's hard to guard," Finley said of Rickards. "She has a toughness about her, which is great. So it's something we're used to Nina doing late in games ... We're better the more aggressive she is. And that's what you saw late in the game."

Turnovers trouble Florida, stalls comeback bid

The Gators committed 23 turnovers against the Bulldogs, who coughed up possession just 12 times.

And while Georgia scored 26 points off of turnovers, no turnover hurt Florida like its last one.

Trailing by three points with 14 seconds to play, Finley took a timeout allowing the Gators to advance the ball past half court for an opportunity to force overtime.

However, Georgia's Audrey Warren would pick Rimdal's pocket, and take off back toward the Bulldogs' half of the floor, where she was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. Warren finished the day with a team-leading three steals.

"Should I have called that last timeout with 14 seconds to go or not? You know, I'm not sure," Finley said. "But our team and our coaching staff has great communication and a desire to improve. We're 1-3. It's not exactly where we wanted to be, but I'm encouraged that we get an opportunity to play those guys again in Athens this season."

Following Florida's loss to Georgia, the Gators will look to snap their two-game conference skid when Kentucky comes to Gainesville on Jan. 15 for a 3 p.m. tipoff.