The Florida Gators (2-0) beat the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (0-2) 83-69 Thursday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Florida fell short offensively at moments with several turnovers but was able to persevere and come out of the game with a win.
“Learning how to come back with the ball, with spacing and different things like that, it is something that we’ll work on and continue to as the season goes on,” Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley.
Florida struggled with a slow start in the first quarter, with Bethune-Cookman taking the lead with the first two points after a UF turnover. The Gators quickly found their groove to put up six points off of rebounds from seniors guard Aliyah Matharu and center Rae Shaya Kyle.
The Gators led 10-4 with four minutes left in the first quarter. Matharu drilled a three-point jumper to push Florida’s lead to 14-8.
The Wildcats fought defensively to stay alive and come within reach of the Gators, but a personal foul from Bethune-Cookman D’Shante Edwards allowed UF to take advantage.
Alexia Dizeko made the buzzer shot to give Florida the 19-10 lead over Bethune-Cookman headed into the second quarter.
Martharu drilled the first two baskets of the second quarter with back-to-back layups. The Wildcats continued to fall behind with personal fouls and loss of control of the ball out of bounds.
An assist from UF senior guard Leilani Correa to Kyle upped the Gators lead to 30-18 as Bethune-Cookman trailed by twelve. UF graduate student guard Kenza Salgues made two consecutive three-pointers to fire up the Gators. With four seconds left in the second quarter, Bethune-Cookman made two free throws, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback and outscore Florida.
Florida led 36-29 to close out the half.
A Florida turnover gave Bethune-Cookman the advantage early into the second half, but a steal from Correa turned into a fast break layup to provide UF with a 38-32 lead over the Wildcats in the opening frame.
Court violation from Bethune-Cookman gave possession of the ball back to the Gators. UF freshman Laila Reynolds scored both free throws after being denied a layup shot.
Matharu drilled a three-pointer to extend the Gators lead to 49-34. She scored another layup after a quick, fast break down the court. Bethune-Cookman climbed its way back on the scoreboard but, with limited time left in the third quarter, the Wildcats failed to make crucial points as they continued to put the ball out of bounds.
An aggressive Bethune-Cookman offense forced a Florida turnover with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Salgues closed out the third quarter with a three-pointer that had Gator Nation on their feet with excitement. The Gators took the lead 62-47 as they headed into the fourth.
The Wildcats claimed two points off free throws, which led to a spark in the Bethune-Cookman offense as they landed on a seven-point scoring streak. They brought the game within ten with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
A Bethune-Cookman turnover allowed the Gators to regain possession of the ball. Kyle and Matharu both made layups to bring Florida back to life. Florida powered through in the final moments, and a Salgues three-pointer closed the game out with an 83-69, Florida victory.