Gainesville, Fla. - A frantic comeback in the second half wasn't enough as the Pacific women's basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, 89-82, at Florida on Friday. Each of the Tigers' starting five scored 14 or more points as Pacific scored 26 points in the final 6:15, but fell to 7-1 on the year.
Kendall Kenyon tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds for fourth double-double of the year, while Kendall Rodriguez and Erica McKenzie each scored 15 points. Gena Johnson and Ashley Wakefield both finished with 14 points.
The Tigers trailed by 14 at the half, but scored 53 points in the second half to make it a ballgame. After cutting the 14-point halftime deficit to seven, the Tigers gave up a 20-6 run to fall behind by 21 with 6:15 to go. From there, Pacific reeled off a 16-2 run of their own, getting to within five before the Gators fended off the comeback bid.
"We didn't do a great job in the first half on either end of the floor," head coach Lynne Roberts said. "We were much better in the second half, but you can't get yourself in that big of a hole. I'm proud of my team for the fact that we never quit, we never gave up. We settled for threes too much in the first half, but were much better in the second when we attacked the basket."
Kenyon finished the game seven-of-11 from the field, while Wakefield (6-of-12) and Johnson (5-of-10) each connected on half their shots. McKenzie and Johnson also tied with a team-high three assists.
The Gators (7-3) had four players finish in double-figures, led by 20 points from Jatera Bonds. Jennifer George added 17 points and 12 rebounds while Kayla Lewis and Sydney Moss each registered 15.
Florida shot 54 percent for the game (30-for-56), while the Tigers connected at a 44 percent clip (31-of-71). Pacific forced 21 turnovers and scored 26 points off Gator miscues. Pacific also stayed right with the taller Gators in rebounding and points in the paint, as Florida held a slim 42-39 rebounding edge and outscored Pacific by two buckets inside, 42-38.
The Gators shot 43 free throws to Pacific's 20, and the Tigers couldn't overcome a 28-9 run by Florida in the first half that enabled them to seize control.
Florida opened the game with 10-4 lead before McKenzie hit a three from the wing, and Wakefield finished while being fouled. Kendall Kenyon added a lay-up inside to give Pacific a 13-12 lead, but the Gators answered with a Kayla Lewis lay-in.
From there, Florida exploded with a 28-9 run, as the Gators tallied inside and a from the free throw line to build an 18-point advantage at 40-22 with 3:51 to go before the half.
Sam Pettinger and Rodriguez hit back-to-back jumpers, and Rodriguez hit a three to bring Pacific back within 12, but Sydney Moss hit the last bucket before the half, to give Florida at 43-29 lead at halftime.
The Gators shot 64 percent from the field in the first half, connecting on 16 of 25 shots.
In the second half, Pacific fought back to within seven, at 57-50, but Carlie Needles hit a three-pointer in transition to curb the Tigers momentum. The Gators lead ballooned to 21 with 6:15 remaining, but Pacific refused to go quietly.
The Tigers got inside and scored as Kenyon and Gena Johnson's lay-ups started a 16-2 run. Brianna Johnson and Gena Johnson each scored on lay-ups in transition. Brianna Johnson appeared to finish on the fast break while being fouled. But the call went the other way, negating the bucket.
McKenzie picked off the inbound pass after the charge, and scored to cut the deficit to 10, at 79-69 with 3:42 to go. After a block by Kenton and another McKenzie steal, the Tigers cut the gap to five with 1:53 to go on a Gena Johnson lay-in.
Florida beat the Tiger press over the top for a lay-up. McKenzie's deep three cut the gap to five year again, with 57 seconds left, but Pacific would get no closer as the Gators picked up a pair of offensive rebounds and held on at the free throw line.
The loss spoils a would-be meeting between two 8-0 teams, as the Tigers will enter next Saturday's contest at No. 1 Stanford at 7-1. The Cardinal are 8-0 on the year and atop both the Associate Press and coaches' polls.
"Seven and one is a great start; if you had told me we'd be 7-1 after the Florida game a month ago, I'd have taken it," Roberts added. "I think this game will make us better. We learned some things about ourselves tonight."
The Tigers will face the Cardinal at 7 p.m., December 15 at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto.