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UF Women’s Basketball: Gators Bounce Back with Win Over Bucs

Nina Rickards finished in double figures for the second-straight game.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s basketball defeats Charleston Southern 67-52 Wednesday night

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Facing a quick turnaround, the University of Florida women’s basketball team bounced back with a victory as it defeated the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 67-52 Wednesday evening at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
 
The Gators ended the first half with a dominant 23-4 run after trailing early and never looked back at they won for the second straight time at home to begin the 2020-21 campaign.  
 
Senior floor general Kiki Smith, scoring 10 or more points for the third consecutive game, added 15 points, four rebounds, and a career-high six steals. Scoring in double figures for the second-straight night, Nina Rickards added 12 points to go with seven rebounds.
 
A night after rebounding was its Achilles Heel, Florida outrebounded the Buccaneers 38-22 and did not allow a single second-chance point.
 
After averaging 10 three-pointers per contest over their first two games, the Gators did not quite find the same success from distance but went inside to do the bulk of their damage with 38 points in the paint.
 
Despite enduring a slow start, Florida led for nearly 33 minutes in the matchup and by as many as 25.
 
Sophomore guard Lavender Briggs chipped in with nine points, while super sub Danielle Rainey added seven. The Wichita State transfer Alyssia Faye paced Charleston Southern with 18 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.
 
CSU scored the game’s first points on a three-pointer from the corner, but the Gators rattled off eight consecutive points to claim an 8-3 advantage. Florida withstood a four-plus minute scoring drought, opening up the door for the Bucs, who took an 11-10 lead.
 
Turnovers plagued the Gators early, as they committed eight in the opening 10 minutes. After a technical foul on Charleston Southern, Florida used the charity stripe to carry a 14-11 lead into the second period.
 
Faye was a force at the beginning of the game, scoring 11 points in first 13 minutes.
 
Florida led 19-16 early on in the second, but CSU used a 6-0 run to jump ahead 22-19. The Gators turned to the three-ball, making three-pointers on three of four possessions during a sequence that propelled them ahead 30-24. The Buccaneers’ lead was short lived and served as a loud-and-clear wake-up call to the Gators, who, after grabbing a 25-22 lead on a Smith trey, would not trail for the remainder of the game.
 
As a result of its ferocious scoring run, UF led 42-26 at the break. In what proved to be a decisive period of play, Florida outscored the Buccaneers 28-15 and shot 56 percent from the floor.
 
The Gators received contributions from up and down the roster, as eight players scored in the first half. Smith led all scorers with 13 on 6-of-9 shooting, and she registered four steals. After the turnover bug bit them hard in the first quarter, the Gators found their footing and took control.
 
The Gators blitzed the Bucs to begin the second half, scoring 11 of the first 15 points in the third quarter. After outscoring CSU 17-13 in the third, it was 59-39 in favor of Florida.
 
The Buccaneers whittled Florida’s 25-point lead down in the fourth quarter, but it was far too little too late as the Gators cruised to their second win of the year.
 
Florida returns to game action Saturday, Dec. 5, when it hosts Cincinnati.
 
UP NEXT
Saturday, Dec. 5 | 1 p.m.
Florida (2-1) vs. Cincinnati (1-0)
Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center
SEC Network+
 
QUOTABLES
Head Coach Cam Newbauer
On the highlights from this game after a quick turnaround…
“We out-rebounded them tonight. We limited them to one offensive rebound, while we had 15 offensive rebounds on the night. They didn’t have much size, so that was a part of it, but we controlled the glass. We had some good moments in spurts, but there were a lot of strange moments, both offensively and defensively. That is just the inexperience of playing back-to-back games. We will have to fix that, but we will keep moving forward and getting more focused.”
 
On what they wanted to implement going into tonight’s game…
“We didn’t talk a ton about Charleston Southern today, but we did talk a lot about last night. We talked about what was lacking – the mental toughness and making the right plays at the right moments last night weren’t there. That was our main focus today – our effort and attitude. From the defensive and rebounding standpoint, the attitude and effort was the key to where we had a lapse last night. I wanted us to focus on defensive rebounding today. We did a good job in spurts, Kiki (Smith) was a big part in that obviously. Not sure if we were fatigued physically or emotionally from the game last night, but it was a strange game overall.”
 
On the 23-4 run to end the first half…
“The defensive pressure of Kiki (Smith) really started that. I thought we were really going to jump on that going into the second half, but we were a little tentative offensively to start the second half. During the second quarter, we played with a lot of aggression on the offensive attack, and we scored 28 points there. Half of our free throw attempts were in the second quarter. When your defense can pick up your offense and get you going – that is one thing you have got to have. The defense is going to have to make stops to be successful in our league, you can’t just outscore people. We have to get better at defense consistently.”
 
Sophomore guard Nina Rickards
On team’s mindset heading into the game on less than a day’s rest…
“I think just to trust our training because we practice a lot. So, we practice how we want to play so just coming out and being ready, just know what we have to focus on. We just came out and gave it what we had.”
 
On rebounding effort tonight…
“As a team, we talked about it and we knew what we had to do. So, we went out and when a shot went up we went hit, box out and pursued the ball, so we tried to improve that specifically today.”
 
On confidence after back-to back games with double-digit scoring…
“I think I’m definitely more comfortable and confident in my shot and my abilities. I can catch and shoot. I can put a pull-up. I can get to the rim. But definitely help from my teammates in practice. They push me to be my best. So, just working with them and getting better as an individual but as a team player, it’s been great.”
 
NOTABLES

  • Florida improves to 4-0 all time against Charleston Southern
  • Kiki Smith added a career-best six steals
  • Florida’s 28 second quarter points were its most since scoring 28 in the first quarter against Samford on Nov. 16 of last season
  • The Gators shot a season-high 56% from the field in the first half, extending their lead to 13
  • The Gators converted 75% of their FT’s, a season-high (12-of-16)
  • Kiki Smith and Nina Richards have each scored in double digits in back-to-back contests — combining for 27 against Charleston Southern
  • Triples from four different Gators gave the lead back to the Gators with five minutes left in the second quarter, fueling a 16-2 run
  • Florida’s bench outscored its opponent for the second time this season
  • Lavender Briggs knocked down five of her six free throw tries
  • All 10 players who appeared in the game scored