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UF Women’s Basketball: Gators Bear Down, Win Big Over Cincy, 81-58

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s hoops puts punctuation mark on long week of basketball with win over Bearcats

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Behind four double-figure scoring efforts, the University of Florida women’s basketball team (3-1) defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats, 81-58, Saturday afternoon inside Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
 
After some back-and-forth play and Cincinnati drawing to within five at 55-50 early in the fourth quarter, Florida left the Bearcats behind by finishing the game with a 26-5 scoring run.
 
Lavender Briggs, who scored 12 points in the final stanza alone, paced Florida with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists, while senior point guard Kiki Smith added 19 points and six rebounds. Nina Rickards, adding her third straight double-digit scoring game for the first time in her career, chipped in with 11, and super-sub Danielle Rainey came through for 17 points including a trio of three-pointers.
 
The Gators saved their best for last, scoring 26 points in the final quarter. Florida shot 10-for-16 from the floor in the stanza and connected on four of its six tries from deep.
 
Briggs, Smith, Rickards, and Rainey, all guards, combined to score 69 of UF’s 81 points in what ended up being a lopsided score despite it being a close game throughout the majority of the contest. 
 
UF played fast from the onset and used its defense to generate offense. Florida scored 25 points off miscues from the Bearcats and added 21 fast break points. Both were season highs. Florida also feasted from the free throw line, making 16 of its 21 tries, including a perfect 14-of-14 start.
 
The Gators jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, and a Smith layup prompted a UC time out just 2:43 into the game. It was clear that playing fast and attacking the rim were key tenets in the UF game plan. After Florida’s early surge, the visiting Bearcats chipped away, but Florida carried a 15-10 advantage at quarter’s end. In the opening frame, UF was just 4-of-17 from the floor but was a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
 
UC utilized a 5-0 run to tie it up at 15-15 to begin the second. The Bearcats scored the first nine points of the quarter to snag a 19-15 lead. A Briggs’ pull-up jumper snapped the scoring drought after a lid appeared to be on the Gators’ rim. Both teams struggled to find their footing early as the Gators and Bearcats both shot below 35 percent in the first quarter. After being held in check with just two points in the first quarter, All-AAC talent IImar’I Thomas went off for 13 points in the period, making five of her six shots. Facing what would ultimately be its largest deficit of the game, Florida erased UC’s 23-17 lead and closed strong to possess a 34-28 edge going into the intermission. Smith’s efforts were crucial in UF’s resurgence as she tallied 10 of the Gators’ 19 points in the frame.
 
At one point, Florida scored eight straight points while holding the Bearcats scoreless for over four minutes.
 
Florida’s lead stood at 34-28 at the end of the 20 minutes; it shot just 31 percent from the floor but made all nine of its free throw tries along with three 3-pointers. Cincinnati made 41 percent of its field goal attempts but did not make a three-pointer and connected on just four free throw attempts. The first half featured two big scoring performances from Cincinnati’s Thomas (15 points) and Smith (12).
 
The Gators scored the first four points of the second half and quickly built a double-figure lead, only to see Cincinnati shrink their advantage to just three points with 6:11 remaining in the frame. After the Bearcats battled back to make it 40-37, Florida’s offense flourished with a 15-2 scoring run capped off by a Rickards’ pull-up jumper. The Gators led by as many as 16 in the frame, but the Bearcats closed with a scoring streak of their own to make it 45-35 game heading into the fourth.
 
The fourth quarter belonged to the Gators, specifically Briggs and Rainey. The duo combined for 22 points, outscoring the entire UC unit by nine points in the period. The two shot 8-of-10 collectively and made four of their 3-point attempts. Briggs scored Florida’s first nine points as it began to pull away from the visiting Bearcats.
 
The Oakland, Calif. native, Thomas, finished with 23 to lead UC.
 
Florida’s defense was stout all game long, and Kristina Moore’s fingerprints were all over the outcome, as she collected a career-high six steals.
 
Faith Dut added six points and four rebounds on the day.
 
The Gators face another quick turnaround as they return to the court for what will be their national television debut Monday, Dec. 7, when they host in-state foe Florida Atlantic. The game is slated for an 8 p.m. ET tipoff on SEC Network with Paul Sunderland and Andraya Carter on the call.
 
UP NEXT
Monday, Dec. 7 | 8 p.m.
Florida (3-1) vs. Florida Atlantic (1-1)
Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center
SEC Network
 

QUOTABLES
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
On how the team fought today…
 “I thought we connected really well today in some big moments with runs when people got excited, playing with a lot of emotion and really got our team into it — got them fired up. Dani [Rainey] made some big plays, and she came in off the bench and really did a good job. Scoring 17 points in 16 minutes, that’s really good. She was efficient and aggressive. Lav did what Lav does. Kiki did what Kiki does. And Kristina Moore, you don’t see it on the stat sheet, but she had 9 deflections all by herself, and that’s something we try to stack defensively to be disruptive. That led us to 24 turnovers right there. Defensive rebounding, we didn’t get as many as we would have liked. But still, to win by 23, that’s pretty good. I like having four players in double figures. Just being aggressive and attacking. A lot of big plays from a lot of different people today and just love the energy the bench had when those plays were made.”
 
On Kiki Smith’s versatility…
“She makes plays when plays need to be made. She got fouled six times and just does a really good job at disrupting the guards on the other team. But also just keeping our team together, talking in the right moments. Whether she’s in the game or on the bench. Even at times, just directing traffic and really elevating her teammates.”
 
On the team’s attitude in a busy 3-game stretch…
“Not just to win, but how we won with the discipline, the mental toughness that we’ve began to really cultivate the past couple games. Because you got to be mentally tough during this stretch to be locked in on different assignments. In five games in nine days, you got to be locked in to keep making the adjustments to get better. It’s a part of just the competitive maturity that we’re growing into and just the drive that our team has to keep being better each possession.”
 
Senior guard Kiki Smith  
On withstanding Cincinnati’s run…
“That’s one thing about basketball. Basketball is a game full of runs. Each team is a going to have a time in a game where they’re hot and the energy and momentum is on their side. It’s just conversations within the team, just telling each other ‘we got it.’ They’re going to have energy, they’re going to have momentum, but ours is coming. And when ours came, we took advantage of it, and like you said, we kept our foot on the gas every single minute.”
 
On the emotions of the game
“Just talking to each other. I think we looked in each other’s eyes and told each other what we need from one another, it means a totally different thing. It’s just trusting one another, like we knew how we play and we knew that we were going to come back and play the game we wanted to play. So, just looking in each other’s eyes and telling each other to keep fighting and keep playing hard. And that’s exactly what we did.”

On her parents being at the game…
“Actually, no. Only because since I was little, I always told them don’t talk to me and I tried not to pay attention to them, well I don’t pay them any attention. Obviously, I know that they are there and I’m glad that they came, but once I step out on the court it’s a different type of focus that I have, so I mean, thanks for coming guys. But, they just know. They already know the rules.”
 
Sophomore guard Lavender Briggs  
On her big fourth quarter…
“Well, I was trying to be aggressive and finish the game. I was knocking down shots, so I just kept going and tried to do what I could to help my team.”
 
On winning today over a tough team after a long week…
“I thought as a team, we were more connected and disciplined and we really just stayed together throughout the whole entire game and that was different from the other games and we got it done.”
 
NOTABLES

  • Briggs finished the game with 499 points scored for her career (33 games played). She is looking to become the fastest Florida player to 500 career points since Sha Brooks eclipsed the 500-point mark in 34 games during the 2006-07 season.
  • Briggs also finished one point short of her career high (23).
  • Redshirt-sophomore Yasmeen Chang played in her first game as a Florida Gator after she was granted a waiver by the NCAA earlier in the week.
  • Florida improves to 1-0 all-time against Cincinnati.
  • The Gators improve to 3-0 at home.
  • Kristina Moore added a career-high six steals.
  • Florida allowed just one made field goal in the first five minutes of play, limiting the Bearcats to 14% shooting from the field (1-7)
  • Florida took advantage in the first half with eight points off turnovers, forcing Cincinnati into 13 turnovers in the first half, a season-high for the Gators
  • After converting a season-high 75% of its free throw vs. Charleston Southern, Florida was back at it again, besting the record with a 16-21 day at the line (76%).
  • UF collected 15 steals, a season high.
  • Florida finished with 81 total points, its second highest total of the season. Additionally, its margin of victory was by 23 points, the second highest margin of victory for Florida this season.