The Gators survived a putrid second quarter to beat Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes 69-57 at the Swamp today.
The Gators struck first, when redshirt senior guard Toni Edwards drove a layup home with a defender draped all over her.
SF State ran almost exclusively a fast break offense during the first quarter en route to a 19-14 lead. Janina Stephens and Amani Alexander both lead the Gators with four points each early on.
The taxing fast break offense started to catch up with SF State in the second quarter. The Gators could not finish on the offensive end, missing their first 11 shots, not including free throws, and only made two out of 13 shots for the entire quarter.
In fact, the only offense that the Gators offense could muster up until 1:01 mark of the quarter were free-throws.
“That first half wasn’t really who we were,” said head coach Natasha Smith.
The Coyotes offense on the other hand, came alive to a tune of 19 points in the second quarter.
After a promising first quarter, the Gators were down 33-27 at the end of the second.
The Coyotes started the scoring in the second quarter with a free throw off of a freshman forward Madison Corder’s foul.
Although Cal State San Bruno found the basket first, it was a back-and-forth for most of the quarter. The Gators clawed back from a 33-27 half deficit and had retaken the lead with 38-36 with freshman guard Taimane Lesa-Hardee’s three pointer.
It was a day-and-night difference the Gators offense in the third quarter, shooting over 53 percent from the floor.
“They are a really good third quarter team, and we decided that we’re going to shut it (them) down today,” said Smith.
The teams continued to trade leads in a closely contested quarter where the Gators escaped with a 51-48 lead.
The Gators started to pull away in the fourth quarter, leading by as much as 10 at one point, and redeemed their second quarter woes with a strong fourth.
Senior forward Jhaina Stephens rampaged through the Coyotes to the tune of 23 points and 17 rebounds. The double-double night was a season high in both statistics for Stephens.
Stephens’ monster night in rebounds rubbed off on the rest of the Gators, who ultimately outrebounded the visibly bigger Coyotes squad 44-35.
“It’s inspiring to see,” said sophomore forward Kaleigh Pugh about the team’s rebounding efforts. “We are undersized. To see the numbers we put up on the the boards; it’s definitely what helped us win this game.”
SF State’s early defensive rebounding helped limit the Coyotes offense in the first quarter, and throughout the second half.
Winners of their last two, the 4-7 Gators could use the confidence boost to turn their season around.
“We’re starting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we can put all that together when it comes on the court,” said Edwards.
The Gators will host the 5-5 Cal State East Bay team on Monday, Dec 17. There is a bit of tension between the two teams.
“We have tomorrow off, and then we’ll focus on ourselves the next few days, and then prepare for East Bay, who are pretty much our rival at the moment,” said Smith. “That will be exciting.”