The Lady Gator Basketball team went into Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores. They had all the necessary equipment to play: uniforms, shoes, and water bottles. But the Gators left their most important tools—they left their suffocating pressure defense, their ability to pass, their good decision making, their ability to make easy baskets, and their ability to stay out of foul trouble.
Actually, they never looked worse. They looked overwhelmed and confused and never in the flow of the game. I haven't seen Coach Butler so animated and disappointed on the sideline.
Give Vanderbilt a lot of credit. They were on fire from the beginning and played well on both ends of the court. At one point the Gators were down 12-0 and then at another point 24-7. Merideth Marsh led their attack on offense with 3-3 from the three-point line in the first half.
Ms. Marsh ended the game with eight three-pointers, which coincidentally tied an all-time record. The Gators never thought it necessary to get out on her and play some defense. The Commodores had energy and had the crowd behind them.
Still Sha Brooks led a charge back and made it respectable late in the first as they went on a 12-2 run. That run help them to end the half at 37-29.
With only an eight-point deficit, I thought, that's nothing. The Gators can do this in their sleep. I counted on Coach Amanda Butler correcting their lackluster behavior, their horrible passing, and uncanny ability to turnover the ball. I counted on that.
But what I didn't count on is that they wouldn't listen, or that they were not going to play well. The Gators in the first three minutes of the game turned the ball over twice, got their two top scorers in foul trouble, and left Vanderbilt's top three-point shooter for uncontested buckets at will. Game over really at this point.
Coach Butler tried different combinations on the floor. Some she tried to get a spark out of her team, and some she tried because her team was in foul trouble.
The Commodores were in the bonus on the line with over 10 minutes left in the second half—unheard of if you want to win a SEC game in the opponent's backyard. The Lady Gators amassed 23 turnovers.
Give Vanderbilt credit; they shot well, and when they didn't, they hustled and played tenacious defense. It seemed as though they were not going to let Sha Brooks beat them, and she didn't. She ended the game with just 14 points and had fouled out with almost five total minutes to go in the game. This output by Brooks after two consecutive games of 29 points.
"Vanderbilt played an outstanding game," UF head coach Amanda Butler said. "We just got outplayed. They were tougher than us. We got outhustled. We got outcoached. You just have to give them every bit of credit for the outcome of this ballgame. They set the tone and we were chasing them the whole ballgame. I'm proud of the way Azania Stewart played and the players who were in the last five minutes of the game. They played with confidence compared with how we played the first 35 minutes."
This loss snaps a seven-game winning streak for the Gators, their first game after being ranked No. 9 in the nation in the AP Poll. I encourage the Lady Gators not to let being ranked in the top 10 be enough. I encourage them not to be satisfied with just beating a young Tennessee Volunteer team.
They now travel to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers for a nationally televised game on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 12 noon.