By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the second game of the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Bryce Jordan Center, No. 6 seed Dayton (23-8) fell to No. 11 seed Florida (20-12). The Gators used a strong second half to win the game, 83-69.
Florida guard Cassie Peoples led the Gators with 21 points and five assists going 6-for-10 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Peoples scored 16 of her 21 points in the second stanza, which was a common theme for the rest of the Gator squad.
Neither team could pull away in the first half as the largest lead for either squad was a slim 12-7 edge for Dayton that came just five minutes into the half. The Flyers and Gators traded buckets for the remainder of the half leading to a 32-29 Dayton advantage at the break.
Florida head coach Amanda Butler says she and her team weren't pleased with their first half performance and they addressed that at halftime.
"We weren't pleased with the way that we played [in the first half] because it just wasn't who we were and I think Dayton was a big reason for that," Butler said. "We needed an adjustment to our energy level. We needed an adjustment to our expectations on possessions.
"We just weren't going into every possession to win it no matter what, I wouldn't say we were accepting bad shots, but they weren't the shots that we wanted."
Whether they were the shots Florida wanted or not, they kept them close heading to the locker room after 20 minutes. Those shots were falling for the Gators after halftime, as well, and Dayton couldn't do much about it as they're shots were doing the opposite.
Florida's shooting improved from 40.7 percent to 51.4 percent from the field in the second half and the Gators made all 13 of their free throw attempts. Dayton dipped from 51.9 percent to 40 percent and scored just 37 points after the break compared to Florida's 54.
This change didn't take full effect until the 8:52 mark when Florida erased a 51-43 Dayton lead and didn't look back. The Gators led 57-56 and closed the game on a 26-13 run.
"They played a heck of a game and I'm very disappointed about that five-to-six minute span in the second half that defined the end of our season," said Dayton head coach Jim Jabir. "We've had trouble all year playing consistently tough in stretches and it did us really hard today at a real inopportune time."
Dayton was led by Andrea Hoover, who scored a game-high 22 points. Three other Flyers were in double figures on the afternoon, but couldn't match up with all five Florida starters who had 11 or more points.
Florida advances to the second round of the tournament to face No. 3 seed Penn State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.