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UF Women’s Basketball: Florida Falls at UGA, 68-58

Kiki Smith put together another solid all-around game with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s basketball battles but falls in road challenge in Athens

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Despite four double-figure scoring performances, the University of Florida women’s basketball team dropped a 68-58 decision at Georgia Sunday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.  
 
In the 77th all-time meeting between Florida and Georgia on the hardwood, Florida got off to a strong start and led 20-16 after the first quarter but in the end could not slow down the Lady Bulldogs, who improved to 10-1 on the season.
 
Florida employed a 9-0 run late in the fourth to draw the score back to within eight at 66-58, after trailing by as many as 17, but the offensive flurry and rally came too late as it fell to 0-4 in SEC play.
 
Lavender Briggs, who entered the game averaging over 20 points per game through three SEC contests, finished with a team-best 16 points to go with five rebounds, while Kiki Smith tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in what was her best performance in the young conference season. Joining Florida’s dynamic duo in scoring was Kristina Moore, who finished just one off a career best with 11 and Nina Rickards, who added 10 points and three rebounds. The group combined to score 50 of Florida’s 58 total points.
 
Florida won the opening and final quarters but endured some struggles in the second and third frames, where the Lady Bulldogs held a 43-26 edge.
 
UGA’s senior center Jenna Staiti scored a game-high 17 points, including 13 during a critical third period in which the Lady Bulldogs outscored the Gators, 22-14.
 
The teams were deadlocked at 38 in terms of rebounding, but Georgia held a 38-28 advantage in terms of points scored in the paint and scored 25 points off UF’s 17 turnovers.

Florida trailed 5-0 out of the gate and went scoreless over two minutes to open the contest but quickly claimed a 6-5 lead thanks to back-to-back AND 1 conversions from Smith. UF’s run stretched to 9-0 after a three-pointer from Moore, and the Gators led 9-7 at the game’s first media timeout. After a slow start from both teams, the pace and production really picked up midway through the frame, and it resulted in Florida leading 20-16 at the end of the first 10 minutes. Five different players scored for Florida in the first, including Smith, who led the way with six. Staiti was forced to exit the game with her second foul in the period. Florida, which began 4-of-14 from the floor, made four straight shots to end the quarter and out-rebounded the Lady Bulldogs 12-9.

Florida jumped ahead 26-21 early in the second but saw UGA rattle off six-straight points as it collected a 27-26 edge, UGA’s first lead since it was 5-3. The score stood at 30-30 with 4:19 to play after a Rickards jumper, but UGA finished the frame on a 7-2 run to enter halftime with a 37-32 advantage. The Lady Bulldogs made four of five shots during a stretch late in the stanza and, after a three-pointer with 10 seconds left from Maya Caldwell, led by five at the intermission after Florida was ahead for the majority of the first half. Moore led all scorers at the break with nine.

At 43 percent, Florida put together its best shooting half so far during conference play. With a track-meet-like pace in the early going, each team played 10 players in the opening 20 minutes. UGA, which entered the game averaging 4.4 three-pointers per game, made five of its seven tries in the first half.

With Briggs on the bench after picking up her third foul late in the second quarter, the Lady Bulldogs blitzed Florida out of the blocks in the second half, quickly building a nine-point lead with a 6-2 spurt over the first 2:11. The Lady Bulldogs’ advantage grew to 50-36 at the media timeout midway through the period. After just two points in the first half, Staiti scored 11 of UGA’s first 13 points, and Florida did not have an early answer for her presence. Despite some late offensive success and fight to claw back in the game, Florida faced a 59-46 deficit heading into the fourth after UGA outscored it 22-14 in the segment.  

The Gators opened the fourth making just one of their first seven shots, and the Lady Bulldogs continued to add separation as they built their lead to 66-49 with 4:45 to play. The Gators would not back down, though, as they pushed back with a 9-0 run late in the fourth. A three-pointer off the fingertips of Briggs drew Florida to within three possessions at the 2:14 mark, but the late charge was not enough in the end.

Freshman Floor Toonders collected a career-best eight rebounds in the hard-fought loss. Five different players scored eight or more points for the Lady Bulldogs, who improved to 6-1 at home.

NEXT UP: Florida continues league play on the road Thursday, Jan. 14, when it travels to No. 13 Arkansas for a 8 p.m. ET matchup in Fayetteville.

QUOTABLES

Head Coach Cam Newbauer

Overall thoughts on the game…
“We just got out-toughed. Their overall MO is how hard they play and their toughness. They forced us into 17 turnovers with a lot of really tough baskets, and we let another 5-man have another double-double. It’s tough and frustrating for us but we are all kind of in the same place, and there’s only one way to get out of it, so we have to keep fighting and keep working.”

On the first half of play…
“The end of the that second quarter got a little out of hand for us. We stopped attacking and sharing it like we were and had a lot of one-on-one moments. That’s their defense, they made some adjustments that gave us some problems, and we had some turnovers that bit us. I thought we played pretty well in that first quarter but couldn’t maintain that offensive and defensive effort.”

The team’s fight to cut the lead down in the fourth quarter…
“All these moments, we got to be tougher and be better. It’s part of it, it’s part of basketball, and it’s part of the SEC. You have to have toughness and resolve, that’s what it takes in this league. So we have to keep fighting because no one is going to have any sympathy for us in this league.”

NOTABLES

  • Sunday marked the 77th all-time meeting between the Gators and Bulldogs, Florida’s second-most games played against an opponent.
  • Florida played its fourth-straight game against a team either ranked in the AP Top 25 or receiving votes.
  • After just six points in her previous two games combined, Moore had seven points in the game’s first 11 minutes.
  • After 12 points combined over her previous three games, Moore tallied 11 on Sunday.
  • Lavender Briggs scored in double figures for the 11th time in 12 games and led the Gators in scoring for the 9th time this year.
  • Sunday marked the third time Florida featured at least four players with 10 or more points.
  • Florida held UGA to just nine fourth quarter points, its second-fewest points scored in a final stanza this season.
  • Kiki Smith finished with five or more assists for the fifth time this season.
  • Florida falls to 0-5 when trailing at the half.

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