UF Women’s Basketball: Gators Fall to Hot-Shooting LSU in SEC Second Round Action
Courtesy of UF Athletic Association
No. 10 seed women’s basketball comes up short, 73-59 to Tigers Thursday in conference tournament.
The University of Florida women’s basketball team (15-15, 6-10) fell in SEC Tournament second-round action Thursday evening, dropping a 73-59 final to seventh-seeded LSU (20-9, 9-7) in front of 4,215 fans at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Lavender Briggs, notching a double-figure point total for her team-best 26th time this season, led all scorers with 22 points. Adding 20 or more for the fifth time, Briggs extended her point total to 435, which moved her into fifth place all-time on the Florida freshmen single-season scoring list.
The All-SEC Freshman team honoree was excellent in her postseason debut, draining a trio of three-pointers and shooting 56 percent overall.
After a back-and-forth first quarter between the squads, LSU took control in the second and never looked back as the veteran-laden Tigers secured a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinal round, where they are set to battle No. 1 Mississippi State Friday.
Outscoring Florida 24-12 in what was a pivotal second period, LSU made 10 of its 11 shots and carried a 41-24 edge into halftime.
Florida, receiving its first first-round bye in an SEC Tournament since the 2015-16 campaign, saw nine of its 10 players score in the contest and out-rebounded its opponent for the 19th time this season.
Trailing by as many as 24 in the second half, the Gators mounted a late comeback, outscoring LSU 20-12 in the final stanza, but couldn’t overcome LSU’s impressive shooting display.
Coming out refocused and reinvigorated, Florida outscored LSU 35-32 in the second half.
The Tigers, who featured a trio of double-figure scorers, compiled their second-best field goal percentage of the season at 54.2 percent. Khalya Pointer led the seventh-seeded Tigers with 19 points, while six-foot-five center Faustine Aifuwa totaled 16 points.
Florida’s bench accounted for 21 points on the night, as both Brylee Bartram and Emanuely de Oliveira put together strong performances. Bartram, hitting multiple three-pointers for the 12th time this season, added nine points while de Oliveira scored seven.
Kiki Smith registered eight points, five assists, and two rebounds for the Gators, who struggled to take care of the ball with 20 turnovers. Those 20 miscues translated into 24 points for the Tigers.
Florida trailed 11-8 at the first quarter’s media timeout but had success inside early, tallying six of its eight points in the paint. The Gators scored on back-to-back trips out of the stoppage in play and secured a 12-11 lead. After Florida utilized a 6-0 scoring run to garner the lead, LSU mounted a 6-0 surge of its own and held a 17-12 advantage at the quarter’s end. LSU captured some momentum when at the first quarter buzzer, Jaelyn Richard-Harris banked in a running shot. The Gators finished the frame shooting 31.3 percent and registered 10 points in the paint. Briggs was locked in from the jump, as she scored six in the game’s first 10 minutes of action.
After Zada Williams dropped in a left-handed layup to open the second quarter scoring, LSU again put together a run, this time at 8-0. Enduring a three-minute scoreless spell, the Gators faced their first double-figure deficit at 25-14. LSU scored 13 of the frame’s first 17 points and quickly possessed a 15-point lead.
LSU’s advantage stood at 41-24 at the intermission, after it seemed like they couldn’t miss in the second. In fact, the Tigers would miss just once, registering a 91 percent field goal percentage in period two. Briggs combatted the Tiger run with eight points in the stanza, but LSU separated itself with its efficient offensive attack.
For the half, the Tigers made 67 percent of their shots, while the Gators converted 10-of-28 at a 35.7 percent clip. LSU turned nine Gator turnovers into 14 points, and UF registered assists on eight of its 10 field goals
Florida began to find its offense in the third, recording 15 points, but LSU continued to lead at 61-39 through three periods. The Tigers, who were 18-of-20 from the charity stripe in the game, knocked down seven of their eight tries from the line in the third.
Facing a 24-point deficit early in the fourth, Florida battled its way back into the game by outscoring LSU 20-12 over the course of the final ten minutes. The Gators shaved 10 points off their deficit when Bartram and Briggs connected on three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, cutting the LSU lead to 67-53 with 2:49 to play. For the quarter, Florida connected on three of its five attempts from distance.
At 15-15, Florida is postseason-eligible for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign. With hopes of qualification into the WNIT, Florida awaits the event’s selection announcement, which is slated for Monday, March 16.
- This is the 41st year of the SEC Tournament.
- The Gators fall to 21-40 all time in the SEC Tournament and 14-16 all-time in the SEC Tournament’s second round.
- Thursday marked just the second all-time meeting between the Gators and Tigers in the SEC Tournament.
- Florida out-rebounded its opponent for the 19th time this season.
- With 435 points scored, Lavender Briggs ranks fifth in program history in freshmen scoring.
- Brylee Bartram added nine points off the Florida bench, making multiple three-pointers for the 12th game.
- Kiki Smith added five or more assists for the 11th time this season.
- LSU’s 54.2 percent field goal shooting was its second highest of the season and best in SEC play.
- Florida picked up assists on 14 of its 23 field goals made, its fifth-highest assist total in a game this season.
- Florida’s bench combined for over 20 points for the fifth time this year.
- The Gators made seven of their 17 shots from long range.
Head Coach Cam Newbauer:
“Congrats to LSU. Outplayed us, outworked us in every single area. They were playing for something today. They played like it. We couldn’t stop them, couldn’t guard them. The first quarter is the best quarter we tried to [guard them]. Then after that, 91% in the second quarter, 50% third quarter, and 42 in the fourth. Just played really, really hard. Very disappointed with our competitiveness in the first half. Shocked with our competitiveness in that first half. But it’s a combination of us not being ready to play necessarily with our team and then them just being really ready to play and jumping out of the gates. I’m glad we competed in the second half.”
On his assessment of the team’s growth this season…
“You look at a number of our losses and how many top-25 teams it’s against. Half of our non-conference losses were against two teams that were in the top 20 all year, with Florida State and Indiana. You play Kentucky twice, you play Arkansas twice, you win at Kentucky, you beat Arkansas at home. You go 15-15. Just right there on two or three other conference games that didn’t go our way.
“I think we’re good enough to be in the postseason. I think we’re deserving. From a coaching standpoint, I want it so we can keep playing and build for the future. Paige and Zada are seniors, but we still have a ton of players back to build for what’s next. I just hope that we can get that bid for it, just keep playing.
“We got a room full of workers and dreamers. I say that because we got kids that work really hard every single day to get better. They dream. They got big dreams. They’re working for those dreams. It makes it a lot of fun to show up every day and work with them. We just got to figure out how in the moments where we get in foul trouble or shots aren’t going down, how do we overcome that adversity and keep playing forward. That’s still the reason I want to keep working with them. I would like to get that work done hopefully before next year.”
#1 Kiki Smith:
On the team’s slow start…
“When we dig ourself in a hole too deep, our energy just wasn’t there. We couldn’t bring ourselves back. At that time like that, against a really good team, like Coach Cam said, we can’t fall too far back.”
On the team’s fight in the second half…
“Just coming in talking about our energy, talking about how we needed to compete and play hard, how at the end of the day we just wanted to say that we left it all out there on the floor. Second half we tried that, but overall it just wasn’t our night.”
#3 Lavender Briggs:
On what the team has accomplished despite the loss…
“I thought we started out the season pretty good. We continued to get better. In the end we didn’t finish it how we wanted to or how we thought we could. That’s just lack of discipline and focus by us.”