The Florida Gators opened the St. Pete Showcase with a dominant defensive effort en route a 61-52 win over Green Bay Thursday afternoon.
The Gators improved to 5-1 on the season with the win and will face Houston to conclude the Showcase Saturday at noon.
The Gators actually scored the first four points of the game before going on a seven plus minute scoring drought. By the end of the first period, Florida trailed 11-7 due to shooting just 2-16 in the quarter.
The Phoenix led by as many as twelve points in the second quarter, 29-17 with 3:44 to play, but the Gators took a 9-0 run into the break to close the gap to three at 29-26.
Following halftime, Jordyn Merritt scored the first three points to tie the game up, though Green Bay continued to turn defense into offense and led by as many as six in the third (5:50). By the end of the quarter, the Gators had gotten to within three at 44-41.
Merritt opened the final frame with a three to tie the score once again. For a few minutes the game played back and forth until Florida seized control with a Faith Dut jumper with 6:31 to play. Green Bay evened the score with 4:45 left, but the Gators closed on a 9-0 run for the win.
Leilani Correa led Florida with 20 points and added four rebounds to the ledger. Merritt finished with 17 points and seven boards while Nina Rickards (11) and Dut (10) each reached double digits.
Both teams struggled offensively as Florida connected on just 31% of their shot attempts. Green Bay shot at a 36% clip.
The Florida defense kept them in the game. The Gators forced 22 turnovers and scored 18 points off those change of possessions.
Florida and Houston will be aired live on FloHoops Saturday.