GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ciaja Harbison had 18 points and season-high five steals as Vanderbilt completed a three-game-in-seven-day stretch with a 73-55 loss to Florida on Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Marnelle Garraud scored 10 points and grabbed a season-high tying six rebounds for the Commodores (9-12, 0-7 SEC), who were playing their second road game of the week.
Vanderbilt managed to cut a 25-point Florida lead to just 13 in the fourth quarter before the Gators (13-7, 2-5 SEC) pulled away again.
After back-to-back blocks by Vandy sophomore Sacha Washington in the opening minute, Florida scored the first six points to jump to an early lead. Freshman Jada Brown broke the ice for the Dores offensively with a 3-pointer, and a layup by Harbison drew Vandy to within 8-7.
But the Gators began to steadily build their advantage. They held a 17-11 lead after one quarter and outscored Vandy 25-10 in the second quarter to take a 42-21 lead into halftime.
The Dores ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by a layup from Washington off an assist from Harbison, to cut a 25-point deficit to under 20. Garraud drained a 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter to extend the run to 10-0, and Vandy got as close as 13 points with 6:38 remaining. But Florida scored eight straight points to end the threat.
Nina Rickards finished with 15 points to lead Florida. Alberte Rimdal had 14 points and Ra Shaya Kyle added 13.
Vanderbilt shot 28 percent overall from the field (19 of 68) and was outscored 48-24 by Florida in the paint.
• Harbison has registered multiple steals in 11 of the 18 games she’s played this season and reached double figures in scoring in 14 games.
• Garraud has a team-leading 15 games in double-figures scoring.
• Washington finished with two blocks, the 11th game this season she’s had multiple blocks.
Katie Lou Samuelson made her debut Sunday as Vanderbilt’s director of player development. Head coach Shea Ralph made the announcement before the game tipped off, and Samuelson was in Gainesville with the team.
One of the most decorated players in recent women’s college basketball history, Samuelson was a two-time All-American at UConn when Ralph was an assistant coach. She scored more than 2,000 points in her college career and left Storrs ranked fourth on the Huskies’ all-time scoring list.
Samuelson is currently in her fifth season in the WNBA. The former first-round draft…