Strong effort on both ends of the floor leads Northwest Florida to 79-50 win over Northern Oklahoma-Enid
LUBBOCK, Texas – Central Florida signee Georgia Gayle picked up where she left off from last year’s NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships, scoring 18 points including six 3-pointers, leading No. 11 Northwest Florida State to a 79-50 victory over No. 22 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid in the opening round on Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Gayle, who totaled 43 points in three games in 2018 and had nine 3-pointers in her last two contests of last year’s tournament, was part of a Raiders shooting barrage that saw them finish with 10 3-pointers and shoot 50.8 percent (30 of 59) from the field.
“I thought we played with a lot of energy, especially in the first three quarters,” Northwest Florida head coach Bart Walker said. “We got the ball up and down the floor and we shot the ball pretty well tonight.
“We lay our hat on defense. We came out and did a great job of guarding and limiting their second-chance shots.”
The win puts the Raiders (25-5) into the second round where they will face No. 6 Butler Community College at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
Jaiden McCoy tied Gayle with 18 points for Northwest Florida State while Shania Meertens, who is signed with Clemson, and Cece Mayo added 10 points apiece. McCoy also had 10 rebounds as the Raiders outrebounded the Jets (23-9) 41-23.
“Today was a great game for everybody all around,” McCoy said. “Georgia making threes early on really helped us going inside for me and all for all of us, it really helped get the lane open. Then, when the would come in, we would kick it back out for Georgia to score, and we did that for all the guards, so it made it easy for us to do what we wanted to do on the offensive side.”
Northwest Florida, which came into the game ranked eighth in the nation allowing 53.3 points per game, dominated the first half in pretty much every phase of the game. The Raiders opened the game scoring the first 10 points and did not allow the Jets a field goal until more than six minutes had elapsed.
It didn’t get much better for NOC-Enid from there. The Jets defense could not contain the Raiders, allowing Northwest Florida to hit 55.9 percent (19 of 34) from the field while sophomore Georgia Gayle had four of the Raiders’ five 3-point field goals, all of them coming in the first 12 minutes of the contest.
That helped Northwest Florida build a 32-12 lead early in the second quarter, which grew to 39-15 on an Alayiah Sherer 3-pointer and a pair of buckets from Jaiden McCoy, who led the Raiders in the first with 16 points.
“This gym is like our gym is at home, so I feel like I’m at home shooting the ball,” Gayle said. “It’s harder to play in smaller gyms because of the backboard, but here it’s the same as home.”
Northwest Florida also clamped down defensively, allowing NOC-Enid just six total rebounds in the first half and forcing 13 turnovers. Chelsea Lazenby led NOC-Enid with 12 points and was the only Jets player in double figures.
The Jets shot just 26.8 percent from the field (15 of 56) and were just 2 of 15 from 3-point range. Conversely, Northwest Florida hit 10 of 21 from beyond the arc while also outscoring NOC-Enid 36-22 in the paint.
“They’re a good team and we knew we had our hands full coming in,” Northern Oklahoma-Enid head coach Scott Morris said. “We knew there was a size deficit and we really prepared and hoped for the little things to happen. We had to hope they didn’t hit perimeter shots, which they hit a ton of. We had to hope the officiating would call it closely on both ends, and they called it fair but it was definitely a physical game for the first 21/2 quarters. That definitely favored their style and size and strengths.”