Only two games ago, the Rebels were tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference. Now, after back to back loses, they find themselves tied for third.
"Key No. 1 today was don't let their perimeter players make 3s," said a disappointed Ole Miss head coach Renee Ladner. "We gave up 11."
Certainly that was a key stat in this one as the Gators made seven of those 11 treys in the first half.
The Rebels trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before pulling to within 10 at the intermission. Down 35-18 with under three minutes to go before the break, the Rebels got it to a workable number, trailing 37-27.
In the opening moments of the second half, the Rebels were able to cut it to six points. A couple of layups by Kayla Melson and Shantell Black pulled their team to a 37-31 deficit.
But Ole Miss wasn't through. A 3-pointer by Liz Robertson cut the UF lead to 41-40 with 15 minutes to go, and the crowd of 2,198 roared its approval.
Two free throws by Melson with 8:26 to go gave the Rebs their first lead of the second half at 52-50. Ole Miss' last lead was 61-59 with 2:57 left on a Bianca Thomas 3-pointer.
But the Gators moved back out to a 65-61 lead at that point, and Thomas pulled her team back to within a point at 65-64 on another 3-point basket with 59 seconds to go.
After a Gator turnover, Thomas missed a shot that would have put Ole Miss up with 22 seconds left. The Gators were not in the bonus and Ole Miss had to foul four times quickly to get them there. Azania Stewart made two free throws with 14 seconds to go to give Florida a 67-64 lead.
Ole Miss came downcourt needing a 3-pointer. Black's open trey was just off the mark, and Ole Miss had a loss it didn't need at this point in the season. Things don't get easier as far as the schedule goes.
Thomas led UM with 21 points, followed by Melson with 20.
Florida (12-9, 5-3) was paced by Steffi Sorensen with 18 points. She was 6-of-7 from 3-point range.
Ladner said the second-half Rebels were the team she wants to show up regularly.
"The team that showed up in the second half is the team that I enjoy coaching and the team that's beaten a lot of good folks," Ladner said. "We defended, we rebounded, we were hungry, we forced turnovers, we made layups, we looked confident. The team that showed up in the first half was tentative, and I'm not sure where that's coming from."
They have to figure it out in a hurry. The Rebels play at Kentucky Thursday night. The Wildcats are in second place in the SEC at 6-2 and are 18-3 overall.
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