For the second-consecutive game, defense shined for Florida women’s basketball, helping the Gators to a dominant 86-40 victory over UNC Asheville on Sunday afternoon in Exactech Arena.
The Gators (2-0, 0-0 SEC) were relentless on the defensive end of the court, forcing 35 UNC Asheville (1-1, 0-0 Big South) turnovers while also recording 20 steals, led by KK Deans who ended with five while Leilani Correa swiped four of her own. Owning a size advantage, the Orange & Blue also ended with seven blocks, three of which came from Faith Dut.
On-ball defense was impressive as well for UF, who held the Bulldogs to just 13-of-52 (25.0%) shooting from the floor and 1-of-18 (5.6%) shooting from three-point range. Mallory Bruce was the lone athlete for UNC Asheville to score in double-figures, ending with 12 points.
Offensively, the Gators continued to push the tempo, ending 36-of-78 (46.2%) from the field while holding a 31-6 advantage over the Bulldogs in fast break points. Five Gators scored in double-figures, led by Correa with 17 while Deans (13), Ra Shaya Kyle (11), Jordyn Merritt (11) and Nina Rickards (10) all crossed the threshold as well. Of the 36 made shots, 22 were assisted on.
On the glass, Kyle secured her third-career double-double with 15 rebounds to head the UF effort. Merritt and Rickards each tallied seven of their own to give Florida the 52-38 rebounding edge, with 21 of the 52 coming on the offensive glass.
Despite a slow offensive start for the Gators, the defense managed to keep the Bulldogs from taking advantage, anchored by two blocks from Kyle in the first three minutes of play. Once again, it was Correa who proved to be the offensive spark, coming off the bench to score on consecutive trips for UF, helping the Gators gain an 11-6 advantage at the media timeout following a Deans triple.
Florida tightened-up following the media break, knocking down 6-of-7 field goals while holding Asheville scoreless for 2:06 to open-up an 18-9 advantage. Paced by Correa’s 10 points, the Orange & Blue held a 22-11 advantage at the conclusion of one. After starting just 1-of-7 from the field, the Gators ended the period 9-of-16.
In similar fashion to the opening quarter, the second frame began with both offenses struggling. Asheville opened the quarter 0-of-4 from the floor with three turnovers while the Gators began 0-of-6. A pair of free throws brought the Bulldogs to within 13 at the 6:07 mark, 26-13, but again the home squad would respond to open up a 37-19 advantage, with the balanced attack coming from Correa, Deans and Kyle.
Four quick points led to the Bulldogs climbing back to within 14 at 37-23, and that’s where the score would stay for halftime. The Orange & Blue held Asheville to just 3-of-12 shooting in the second period while forcing nine turnovers.
The Gators wasted no time putting the nail in the coffin to begin the second half, opening on an 8-0 run to force a timeout with 6:58 on the clock and pull-ahead by 22, 45-23. All four buckets during the spurt came from layups, highlighting the improved pace and defensive intensity. Florida’s run came to an end with a 47-23 lead before a pair of free throws from Bulldogs with 6:15 remaining ended their drought. The dominance continued, however, with a 27-9 quarter putting the game out of reach at 64-32.
Sunday’s game would end with an impressive 86-40 victory for the Gators, thanks to 19 forced second-half turnovers and 22-of-42 (52.4%) shooting over the course of the final 20 minutes.
The Orange & Blue will head to Tallahassee, Fla., for the Sunshine Showdown presented by Fresh From Florida for the annual matchup against Florida State on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. ET.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On what Ra Shaya Kyle brings to the team…
“She brings a physicality. Shay has a great demeanor about her, and I was really pleased with her toughness and her multiple efforts. She’s really working on her responses and I’m proud of her growth in that area, and her ability to produce in the minutes that she has, but how she does it is improving. She gives us a tremendous inside presence. I love how she is pursuing the ball, the rebounds with two hands, too, which should help us in league play.”
On the defensive intensity…
“You know, anytime you can force thirty-five turnovers that means that all five players are on the same page. We had worked really hard this week and over the course of the summer on how to move together, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I think defensively we’re really seeing growth in that area, though I think that we can continue to improve.”
– The Gators now lead the all-time series with UNC Asheville, 2-0.
– UNC Asheville has been held to 10 points or less in four of their eight quarters played against the Gators.
– Following the opening two games, the Gators have outscored their opponents by 74 total points, the largest two-game difference since outscoring Kennesaw State and Savannah State by 92 in 2015.
– The 74-point advantage between over the first two games also marks the largest scoring difference over the opening two contests in school history.
– The Gators recorded 20 steals for the first time since Dec. 21, 2016 when they recorded 20 against Florida A&M.
– Sunday’s 35 forced turnovers were the most for the Gators since the same game against Florida A&M in 2016 where they ended with 36.
– The 38 steals recorded over the first two games of the season is the most in a two-game span since recording 39 in back-to-back games against Florida A&M and Southeastern Louisiana in 2016.
– Owning 63 forced turnovers, the Gators are in their best stretch since forcing 39 in back-to-back games against Florida A&M and Southeastern Louisiana in 2016.
– Florida eclipsed 50 rebounds for the first time since Dec. 21, 2020 when they recorded 61 against North Florida.
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